JEDDAH - A sea of white-robed two million pilgrims from all around the globe has arrived at the holy city of Makkah, chanting "Labbaik Allahhuma Labbaik" (O God, here I am answering your call), to perform the life-time spiritual pilgrimage.
"You've got to be patient. Insha Allah, everything will be fine, don't worry," a staff of the Ministry of Culture and Information, known only as Hamdan, told thousands of pilgrims at the hajj terminal in Jeddah airport, Bernama reported on Monday, October 7.
Hamdan was one of the Saudi officials who spread at the Hajj Terminal to assist visiting journalists to observe the annual hajj this month.
Like Hamdan, most of the Saudi officials at the terminal were very apologetic for the long waiting time before the pilgrims could resume their journey.
He reflected a portion of great efforts exerted by Saudi authorities to upgrade facilities and services for the pilgrims' ease and comfort, some may still encounter delays.
The Haj Terminal, estimated to be at least five million square feet (465,000 square meters) is known for its tent-shaped fiberglass roof.
In a bid to make waiting easier for pilgrims, the terminal has a mosque, and it can accommodate 80,000 travelers at one time.
The customs and immigration halls are air-conditioned with lots of facilities for "Wudhu", drinking water and toilets.
Last June, Saudi Arabia announced its plan to restrict the number of pilgrims for this year's hajj over ongoing expansions at the holy sites in Makkah.
Saudi authorities said they will reduce the numbers of pilgrims coming from within the kingdom by half.
The numbers of overseas pilgrims will be reduced by 20 percent.
In the meantime, a temporary "mataf" bridge has been installed to increase the capacity for those wishing to perform the "tawaf" (circumambulation of the holy Ka'aba).
The mataf area will increase the tawaf capacity to 35,000 worshippers an hour.
Making final hajj arrangements, Saudi authorities have announced their plan to set up advanced cameras around the holy sites to monitor pilgrim movement and ensure their safety.
We are using powerful digital cameras for the first time this year, Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, commander of the Command and Control Center for Haj operations, told Arab News on Monday.
These cameras can monitor events taking place 60 km away. They can also operate under difficult weather conditions, he said.
Al-Zahrani said that the director-general of public security has instructed his department to acquire the latest technology to carry out their mission effectively.
We have installed about 4,200 cameras in important locations at the holy sites. This number will increase with the expansion of the holy sites, the general added.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
At dawn on Monday, October 14, the faithful will begin moving towards Mount `Arafat, about 15 km east of Makkah, for the climax of hajj.