Fearless and Safe Expansion

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Alie Y. Kallay

A panel has been formed by royal decree to develop Holy sites, specially the Stoning Site (Jamaraat) to ease congestion and upgrade facilities for the pilgrims (HAJJEES).

The custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Fahd, issued a Royal Decree on 11-12-AH TO form a commission for the Development of Makkah, Madinah and the Holy Places (CDMMHP). It’s part of comprehensive plan to meet the comfortable needs of pilgrims over the next two decades.

CDMMHP IS chaired by Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mut’ib-son of Abdul Azeez, Prince Abdul Majeed-son of late King Abdul Azeez, governor of Makkah, and the Minister of Hajj Iyad B. A. Madani as members.

he CDMMHP which will report to the King, will make recommendations, get the help of local and foreign experts, and use the resources of all government agencies and research centres.

The Council of Senior Islamic Scholars (CSIS), the Kingdoms supreme religious body , has endorsed the government’s plan to develop and restructure the Jamaraat area. It said it was necessary to revamp the stoning site to ensure the safety of pilgrims. “The council agreed to develop Jamaraat area for the safety of and ease of pilgrims, said Grand Mufti (the supreme Islamic leader) Sheikh Abdul Azeez Al-Sheikh, head of the council.

The Jamaraat expansion project comprises four concepts to facilitate ramye (stoning) and movement of pilgrims, according Dr. Ussama F. Albar, Dean of the King Fahd institute for Hajj research, Ummul-Qurah University in Makkah.

The Jamaraat bridge will be constructed in two stages-five floors in the first phase. And four, one at a time , in the second phase-all together taking 20 years.

“Jamaraat is one of the Manasiks (rites) of Hajj. Several accidents have taken place in the area. Sometimes during the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah (12th month of the Islamic calendar), like this year, sometimes on the 12th. The Jamaraat bridge, which is nearly 30 years old accommodates about 800,000 pilgrims an hour. In the very crowded situation, it could accommodate about 100,000 an hour per floor” Al-bar told me in an interview. ” It has two floors. So the capacity of the Jamaraat area now is about 200,000 Hajjis an hour(pilgrims) an hour. The problem arises when you get about 400,000 Hajjis at a time” he added.

This situation results in shortage of space, reaching about six or seven persons per sq. meter. ” So anything can happen. Someone can fall down; some elderly person can fall down near the Jamaraat. Someone carrying luggage with him can exacerbate the situation. Any of these reasons can lead to accident and crowded conditions can accelerate the problem very quickly. This is the situation now” he elaborated.

“The plan in future is to develop the area as a whole, not just the bridge. We have different concepts in our future designs,” Al-bar said.

The first concept of the project:

The first concept is to make the area especially for the pedestrians. No vehicle movement at all on the ground level. All the cars, all the emergencies, all the services, municipality, cleaning, all these kinds of services, will be underground. There will be a tunnel containing three lanes-the extension of suqul-Arab(Arab-market), the extension of Al-Joharah (an area) and extension of King Faisal Street. All these will be an addition to the Jamaraat area. Also, there will be a cleaning system for the area and all the rubbish, used stones will be transferred automatically from any floor to the underground area. There will be a mechanical storage and trucks, etc, will take these away outside Mina.

Railway system

There is a plan for railway system in the future. Which could be in five or ten years time. A special tunnel is going be constructed for trains.” We see that there will a need for another way of transportation, so there will be a tunnel specially designed for a railway system from Arafah to Holy Haram in the future,” he said.

The second concept of the project:

Explaining the second concept in the design he said it involves taking the pedestrians from the source, not letting them accumulate into a huge crowd that you cannot deal with like what we got now Jamaraat area, he said.

“For that reason a design has been made for even transport from all over Makkah and Mina areas. The people coming from east from Suqul-Arab and Al-Joharah, they will get on the ramp that will take them directly to the first floor.”

“The idea is to divide the crowed in smaller groups. Takes them from the source to the different floors by ramps. We do not want to use or depend on mechanical systems. When dealing with a crowd it is always better to use ramps, natural systems. The elevation of the ramp should not be too high; it should be low, so that people can cope with elevation,” Albar explained.

So there will be two entrances from the western area-the side of Makkah, the people coming from Azeezeeyah, Siddgi, Adil, Shisha, (areas) can go directly to the second floor. The people coming from the northern side of Mina or King Fahd street, or the new project of the buildings in Mountains of Makkah can come to the third floor. People from the south side of Mina will go to the fourth floor.

“With this design you separate the crowd and the people of different levels. By Allah’s will, there will be no such crowd like what we find now in the area,” he said.

The third concept of the project:

The third concept is to make the stoning process much easier than what it is nowadays by changing the shape of the Jamaraat from round to ellipse, so that the crowd can be divided into various groups from various directions. That will make the flow go through much easier, and the pebble throwing process very fast and safe, for the people. A simulation model has been designed specially for these, and Jamaraat will be given optimum width and optimum length. The Jamaraat will be changed from a column to a very wide wall so that it can be clearly visible and comfortable for the pilgrims to throw their pebbles.

The fourth concept of the project:

The fourth concept is to increase the capacity of holding pilgrims by building multiple story floors, a ground level and three floors and also a deck, making it into a five-floor structure, accommodating up to half a million pilgrims per hour, which means accommodating three to five million hajjis per day.

Well planned:

The plan has taken three years of study since the year 2000. A field research was conducted during Hajj in 2001 using different experts from Saudi Arabia and abroad, and prominent Islamic scholars.

The first expansion of Jamaraat was in 1975 when the current bridge was constructed. Now there are only two floors, ground and first floor. This is going to be the second major expansion for the area. There will be a total of five floors including the first two. These will be a built in phases. The first one will the construction of the underground tunnels, afterwards in the second year ground; first and second floors will built. In the third phase, the third and fourth floors will be constructed. “Hopefully it will take about three years in all. I don’t know really,” he said.

“The Jamaraat capacity now about 200,000 pilgrims per hour which will increase to 500,000 pilgrims per hour per floor, Insha’Allah, the project will solve all problems at the Jamaraat, and I hope the education program organized by the Ministry of Hajj, would go through in all countries where Muslims are available, and the Malaysian experiment for educating for educating pilgrims before coming for the Hajj would be extended to other Muslim Countries because this will make the Hajj safer and easier,” Dr. Albar said.

“The new extension project will make the stoning press safer,” concurred Dr. Mohammad abdulah Idrees, head of the King Fahd’s Institute for Hajj research’s participating team in designing of the Jamaraat expansion project.

An international view:

Although comprehensive study has been conducted to assess timing of stoning by Saudi scholars, but global view is needed as the matter concerns all Muslims.

The institute has been receiving suggestions from all over the world, regarding the stoning, development of the Jamaraat and other Holy sites. All these were studied and organized. A criteria was set for evaluating these and accordingly suggestions satisfying that criteria were selected.

“The institute has a team that has been working in the Jamaraat area and other Holy Sites for a long time. We also used our long experience in the field. We began the concept based on previous problems. Many accidents had happened. We studied these – the cause, effect, why, when, and so on. We found out that a major problem is the limited capacity or space is available at Jamaraat area compared to the number of pilgrims, which is increasing every year. So, we started to think about increasing the capacity of Jamaraat area by adding a multistory bridge. The present bridge which is only a one – story bridge cannot satisfy the requirements or needs,” Idrees said.

Observation and study showed that most of the people come from one entrance creating a huge crowed in front of this entrance waiting zawaal(Mid -day) to start stoning the devil. Hence the concept focused on distributing this huge mass of people by specifying an entrance for each area.

The study had shown that there is a different areas. The maximum percentage -65 percent, comes from Mina area, followed by Makkah , the other from the northern and the southern side of Mina this led us to control this flow by connecting each floor with a separate ramp. We also studied the shape of the Jamaraat, which is circular. we compared it with different shapes and we did simulations to find out the most suitable for the smoothest flow. Simulation model showed us that the elliptical shape was the best suited for the purposes. Whenever you expand it, you get more flow. So we decided to change the shape from circular to elliptical with a long wall, about 36 meters long. Also, we added about ten entrances and 12 exits. So people will never face any difficult flow.

The environment:

Environmental conditions of the area were also taking to account, and it was decided to relate the project to surrounding area. “So the project takes the shapes of the surrounding mountains. It is getting wider as it goes down. We faced a problem in the beginning of how to connect the fourth floor is parallel to the level of the King Abdul Azeez street, the high area of Mina. So rather than let people go down and take the bridge, we connected the fourth floor directly with street”, he explained.

“The structure of the project is very important,” he said. On the ground floor under the present bridge there are a lot of columns-huge ones. Now in the new project, these have been done away with. The remaining columns are only on the edge. The design of the stoning area looks like tent or the roof of a stadium. It has a separate structure using falls, which allows a large distance –about 90 meters.

Also, artificial lights have been used that are not visible. It looks like natural light over the bridge. Each floor is about 12 meters high, which also gives enough space for natural light from outside. In addition to that, there is an air-conditioning system.

“The underground floor has a system to lift ambulances to the forth floor.”

“The project will increase the capacity at the same time, it will allow people to stone without fear,” Idrees said.

The destiny on the bridge will not be more than three person per square meter, against the existing density of more than five, and up to six during the peak periods. There will be electronic gates to control the crowds. The design of the gates in such that when closed they will go in semi-circle, piece by piece without affecting pilgrim.

The gates have high signs showing which is the first floor, second and so on. The ground floor will be an open area with no gates.

The project is designed with future expansion in mind. The first stage of the project will accommodate about 2.8m, which will be designed by 1445 AH.

A huge 10-story building is planned in surrounding mountains to house the pilgrims. This has also been taken in consideration, and when it is built, the additional floor will be connected directly with the high-rise building. The main goal of this project is to disperse the huge mass in front of the one entrance, take the bridge to the people in their areas, increase the capacity and flow and so on, adding considerably to safety and ease.

Asked about the simulation study, he said it was based on the already computerized drawings of the design. “We ran a simulation model expecting the flow, the capacity, etc. that gave us a good result.

The plan was completed last year. We kept improving in the meantime. It takes time to consult the huge group of consultants from all government agencies, and discuss the project with them” he added. Since King Fahd acceded to the thrown 22 years ago, the government of Saudi Arabia has spent more than SR 100 billion for expansion of the of the Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, which has made it possible for two million Muslims to gather at the Holy Haram of Makkah and one million at the prophet’s mosque in Madinah.

Alie Kallay
aykallay@yahoo.com