Wednesday 25 November 2009

Organised Chaos: Handling 2.5 Million Pilgrims

The Independent (23 November 2009) has an article on the Saudi's organisation during hajj:

"He said the Saudi management has improved year by year, and newly rebuilt hajj terminal arrival facilities have vastly alleviated past hassles.

"This is much better than before," when tens of thousands of people would be pushing and shoving in passport and luggage queues.

It is chaos, but altogether pretty efficient, says French consul Christian Nakhle, who has to care for as many as 30,000 pilgrims coming from France.

"We all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several weeks," he said.

It is a huge mixing bowl of ethnicities and germs. But Srouji said that of the 5,000 people a day who pass by his camera alone - there are 11 other such stations - so far he has picked up only one person with a feverish temperature.

This year, he has three French-speaking doctors on call full-time, three dedicated motorcycle drivers to get documents and other supplies through impenetrable Mecca traffic, and roll-up mattresses for staff inside Mecca who follow the French hajj groups around full time, but sometimes cannot get back to their hotels.

The motorcycles are crucial, he said. A year ago, a French pilgrim appeared to be having a heart attack. They had to load the man on the back of a motorcycle to get him through the traffic to where a car could take him to hospital."

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