Housing problems of pilgrims ‘still unsolved’

Another problem has to do with maintaining and supervising pilgrims’ buildings.

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Hajj foreign missions controlling the rent of pilgrims’ accommodation and the locations of these buildings that are often far away from the Grand Mosque are just two of the problems facing this particular sector during the pilgrimage season, according to a seminar on the subject.

Other problems identified by the seminar, held by Makkah daily, include that the regulations do not permit Haj establishments to hire workers on a temporary basis and Haj establishments do not have the option of choosing the location of their offices, which are located away from the buildings where their pilgrims stay.

Zuhair Haddad, chairman of the committee in charge of inspecting pilgrims’ buildings, which is supervised by Makkah Municipality, said the committee conducted a study proposing solutions to all these problems and sent it to the higher authorities.

“If issued, the new regulations will make things better,” Haddad said.

Maher Jamal, president of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is hopeful pilgrims will be able to stay near the Grand Mosque and perform all prayers there.

However, he believes one of the downsides is the central area around the Grand Mosque will be crowded with pilgrims all the time and water, transportation, and sewage networks will experience a lot of pressure.

The other disadvantage should all pilgrims live near the Grand Mosque is that the pilgrims will not have a chance to interact with Makkah people.

“We want pilgrims to experience our life first-hand and get acquainted with our social customs,” Haddad said.

Dr. Fayez Jamal, well-known writer, believes the current regulations, which do not permit Haj establishments to play any role in renting buildings for their own pilgrims and instead give this responsibility to Haj foreign missions, brings a lot of damage to the economy.

Some missions have taken advantage of the system and earned millions in commissions, he said.

“The Haj establishments should be given more powers in this regard,” he said.

Another problem, Jamal said, had to do with maintaining and supervising pilgrims’ buildings.

He said the establishments are the ones in charge of supervising such buildings on their own expense.

In other words, they have to pay to fix any shortcomings or mistakes.

“The Arab Countries’ Haj Establishment paid few years ago around SR4 million as a result of supervising pilgrims’ buildings,” he claimed.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 15, 2014.

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