A HELPING HAND: A security officer helps a wheelchair-bound woman pilgrim reach a place of safety in Mina. — SPA
MAKKAH — After completing their Haj rituals amid an atmosphere of serenity and peacefulness, the pilgrims will start their journey back home from today (Tuesday). Their departure will continue until Sept. 15 when the Haj is officially declared over.
According to the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Saleh Bantin, the 2.5 million pilgrims came from 130 countries, representing more than 170 various nationalities.
The minister said about a third of the pilgrims were old people who were 70 years old or above and that about half of them were women.
The pilgrims today continued to throw stones at the three replicas of the Satan and proceed to Makkah to do their Ifadah and farewell tawafs.
If they do not leave Mina for Makkah before sunset, the pilgrims will have to stay the night in Mina.
According to the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), the domestic pilgrims will be grouped today while those from the GCC countries will be grouped on Wednesday.
It said all the international flights will be operating from Thursday and added that a plan was formulated with the Haj and Umrah Ministry to group the pilgrims according to their flight schedules.
The pilgrims will board their flights from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.
GACA said all the 14 lounges at the Haj terminal of KAIA, which were used for arrival, have been into converted departure facilities.
It said the passport procedures for each pilgrim would not take more than 27 minutes at the 228 passport desks.
The Haramain Express Train will start grouping the pilgrims from Makkah to Madinah from today where they can pay homage to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and pray at his mosque.
Meanwhile the concerned departments, including the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, were able to drain the rainwater from the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
The presidency’s cleaning department was able to dry up the rainwater from the mataf area in the Grand Mosque so that the pilgrims could do their tawaf easily.
Director of General Security, Gen. Khaled Al-Harbe said the pilgrims in Mina were asked to remain in their tents while it rained to avoid accidents.
He said those who had already reached the Jamrat facility before the rain started were kept under the shades until the rain had stopped.
“There were no any emergency cases resulting from the heavy to medium rains in Mina or Makkah or along the road between them,” he said.
Naif Al-Jahdali of the presidency, said 200 workers using 16 cleaning equipment were able to dry the water inside the Grand Mosque in a record short time so that the tawaf would not stop.
The pilgrims spent their time in supplications as well as documenting the moment with their mobile phone cameras while it was raining.