AUGUST 10, 2018 | 3:33PM MYT | MAKKAH
Malaysian haj pilgrims have been advised to keep an eye out for their roommates when in the Holy Land as this strategy is the first line of defence in ensuring each other's safety and well-being.
Pilgrims are segregated according to gender in accommodation buildings here so couples and many family members do not share rooms.
Their roommates are often people they have just met.
Manager of Maktab 87 Khairoddin Ahmad said it was important for pilgrims to get to know their roommates and to report to TH staff if anything untoward occurred.
He added that they also played a significant role in providing comfort and support.
"During the crane crash of 2015, it was through this roommate network that we managed to trace who was missing among Malaysians. We went from room to room to check who did not return from the mosque.
"One pilgrim who lost her husband in the catastrophe managed to pull herself together and proceed with her haj thanks to the support of her roommates.
"In the Holy Land, it is your roommates who are closest to you, the people you talk to and lean on," he told Malaysian journalists at accommodation building Rehab Janadriyah.
On Sept 11, 2015, seven Malaysians died when a mobile crawler crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque, here. The disaster, which occurred during the haj season, killed 107 people and injured 238.
For this year’s haj season, Malaysian pilgrims are grouped into 12 maktabs.
“Before the pilgrims arrive, all the rooms are checked and maktab offices should be operational. The respective maktab managers will ensure accommodation, catering and financial services are ready,” he said.
Khairoddin said there had been very minimal reports lodged by pilgrims at his maktab thus far, with most related to lost identification tags.
"We have also had reports from pilgrims being unable to find their way back from the mosque."
Khairoddin advised pilgrims not to bring too many valuables and money with them when they move around here.
This, he added, was because lost items would affect their focus on religious obligations.
"They should always carry their satchels in front of them and when they pray, their bags should always be placed in front of them too," he said, adding that pilgrims should move around in groups.
He also cautioned pilgrims to be careful of people who approach them at their accommodation buildings offering all kinds of services.
"When pilgrims arrive at the maktab, we introduce them to all TH staff. They are told if approached by anyone else aside from TH staff for anything at all, they need to be cautious and report the matter to us."
Copyright New Straits Times