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Hajj Logistics

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Government Responsibilities
Tent city of Mina during Hajj

During Hajj, Mina turns into an enormous tent city housing millions of pilgrims.

S. M. Amin/Saudi Aramco World/PADIA
All Muslims are required to perform a pilgrimage to Makkah, or Hajj, at least once in a lifetime. Makkah is located about 80 kilometers from the port city of Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. Every year, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah (the "month of Hajj"), pilgrims from all over the world gather in Makkah for the annual event. In recent years, the number of pilgrims converging on the city has increased to about 3 million people at one time.

The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has jurisdiction over Makkah and the surrounding areas, and thus has full responsibility for the safety of the area's visitors. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is known as "the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," highlighting this responsibility for both Makkah and the Islamic holy city of Madinah.

The Saudi government has designated an entire Ministry to this enormous task: the Ministry of Hajj. Its role is to manage the entire Hajj experience. The Ministry coordinates with other agencies to provide logistical support for the pilgrims. They also arrange and supervise licensing contracts with local and international agents who are responsible for groups of pilgrims while they are in-country. Anyone who wants to travel for Hajj must book through a licensed agent in their home country, who is required to provide all passport, visa, transportation, shelter, and food arrangements for the pilgrims in their charge.

The logistical preparations for Hajj begin immediately after the pilgrimage season ends, in preparation for the next year. During the off-season, the Ministry of Hajj remains busy coordinating infrastructure changes, reviewing difficulties from the previous season, running workshops and outreach programs, and updating operational plans. Thus the activities surrounding pilgrim care run year-round.

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