Mecca and the holy sites will become a "Smart City" with the building of the first “development model” to start after the current haj season, said governor of the Mecca region and chair of the central haj committee Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.
Prince Khalid said the Royal Commission set up last year reached a consensus on the preliminary studies for the development of the holy sites and city of Mecca, the ministry of media said in a statement on Tuesday.
The implementation of “technical and executive studies” is nearing completion, it said.
“Immediately after this haj season, we will start building the first development model for Mina, which includes housing and camps,” said Prince Khalid.
“This will be ready next year to be put under trial to see the effectiveness of this project and if any additions, adjustments, or complete changes are needed,” he added.
The development of the sites will continue “until Makkah and the Holy Sites become a smart city, which will be completed in the next few years”, he said.
The statement did not give details of what will make Mecca and the holy sites “smart”.
This year’s haj “saw an increased pace in using technology to improve the pilgrimage experience”, said the ministry of media.
“Recently unveiled projects by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah include a smart haj platform, a service-supervision initiative to improve housing by adding living space and organising bus trips, a pilgrim grouping programme that uses electronic system to manage and monitor crowds, a project to increase capacity as part of which a site in Mina has been cleared to set up fully-equipped tents, and an initiative to improve upon food services and expand the provision of ready meals at holy sites,” it said.
The ministry started its “Smart Haj” initiative during last year’s pilgrimage with digital services and apps including “Hajj and Umrah Navigator” and “Health and Our Rituals”.
The final official tally for this year’s haj pilgrims is 2,489,406.
74.5 per cent, or 1,855,027 came from outside Saudi Arabia and the remaining 634,379 were domestic pilgrims comprised of Saudi nationals and foreigners.
Male pilgrims accounted for 55.65 per cent of all pilgrims, equivalent to 1,385,234 versus 1,104,172 females.
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