CAIRO - Saudi Arabia is planning to turn the holy city of Makkah into a smart city' in an effort to improve services to millions of Muslim pilgrims, Arab News reported.
We have new design plans for Makkah, Jeddah and Taif, Makkah governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal told a meeting on smart city applications earlier this week.
It's our opportunity to take the initiative now. All we need is good management and a strong will to start the project.
The term Smart City' refers to the creation of an innovation network to develop and deliver better e-services to citizens and businesses.
"There is no excuse for not making our cities smart," Prince Khaled said.
"We should be pioneers in making our cities smart."
He argued that Saudi Arabia has all capabilities to turn Makkah and other areas into smart cities.
"We have all the factors to make this project successful, he said.
We have a great leadership that is ready to take initiatives. We have peace and security and we have enough funds.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Twelve million pilgrims visit the city every year with the numbers expected to increase to 17 million by 2025.
During hajj season, nearly three million Muslims embark on hajj.
The Makkah governor said that the smart city project aims to improve services to Muslim pilgrims.
"We want to carry out Hajj and `Umrah services in the best manner, in line with international standards," he said.
"We have to make pilgrims happy by extending the best possible services."
He said that plans to develop the holy city were prepared with different parties to create more favorable atmosphere for pilgrims.
"The plan centers on the Holy Kaaba because it was the reason for the presence of people in this part of the world," he said.
Saudi Arabia has carried out several projects to develop Makkah, including expanding the area of Al-Masjid al-Haram and the hajj terminals.
But the expansion projects, however, drew fire from some residents for demolishing the cultural identity of the city.
Prince Khaled rejected perceptions that Muslims are a third-world community."We are a progressive society. Our religion Islam calls for progress. We'll not accept less than top position and there is nothing impossible.