Making Makkah safe for pilgrims

Click here: The Muslim News – Making Makkah safe for pilgrims

Fatal crushes often occur during the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, sometimes killing hundreds of people. Now German researchers using traffic-modelling software have re-organized the ritual to make it safer for pilgrims. ..Following the 2006 catastrophe, authorities had the old bridge torn down. They have plans for a new and even larger one. In the future, the stoning ritual will take place on four different levels as well as on the ground. The planned construction will be larger than Berlin’s central train station, with emergency exit tunnels, helicopter landing pads and a conveyor belt by which to remove the falling pebbles. Two years earlier, the pillars had already — with the approval of religious scholars — been enclosed in elliptical concrete walls, in order to increase the area available for stoning. Once completed, the bridge will hold as many as 5 million pilgrims.

…The project of making Mecca safe necessarily involved a clash of cultures. Germans and Arabs, imams and generals, civil servants, physicists and engineers were all involved. “A lot of persuasion was needed,” says an employee of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs who coordinated the measures. But the goal was the same for all the parties concerned: Getting people from A to B and back again, safely.

…Anders Johansson, a Muslim himself, had travelled back to Mecca. His computer program was counting the pilgrims on his monitors.The Germans were met with a few small surprises in the city of pilgrims: An unusually large number of people had arrived that year. The second day of the hajj happened to be a Friday, which increases the date’s religious significance…


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