Saudi Arabia recorded least number of Hajj pilgrims this year

This year, 1,325,372 foreign and 537,537 domestic pilgrims performed Hajj, making a total of 1,862,909 pilgrims

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This year 54.6 percent male and 45.4 percent female foreign pilgrims performed Hajj, according to a final data released by the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat).

Most of the foreign pilgrims arrived by flights (94 percent), while 5 percent came through land border crossings, and only 1 percent came by sea.

The number of foreign and domestic pilgrims has come down during the past 10 years. In 2007, more than 1.7 million foreign and 746,511 domestic pilgrims performed Hajj, making a total of more than 2.4 million Hajj pilgrims.

However this year, 1,325,372 foreign and 537,537 domestic pilgrims performed Hajj, making a total of 1,862,909 pilgrims. This is the least number of pilgrims in the last 10 years.

In 2012, more than 3 million pilgrims performed Hajj, the highest in the last 10 years.

This year, Egyptian domestic pilgrims outnumbered other nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia. They were followed by Pakistanis and Indians.

The General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) this year developed and improved its data collection mechanism by using portable devices which help in collecting accurate and faster data on pilgrims.

The data on pilgrims is classified according to their nationalities, arrival centers, and arrival times, said a GaStat statement.

To collect data, GaStat deputes its staff at six centers located on the entry points to Makkah. There are also supporting centers in Jeddah, Taif, and Madinah. The counting process starts from Dhul Hijjah 1 till the evening of Dhul Hijjah 9.

For the data on foreign pilgrims, GaStat depends on the General Directorate of Passports.

Given the importance of Haj statistics in planning and services provided to pilgrims, GaStat implements Hajj statistics on an annual basis. It publishes an annual bulletin containing all the data on number of pilgrims classified by sex, nationality and date of arrival.

The data helps in estimating the necessary labor force for serving pilgrims, setting the necessary annual traffic plans, and evaluating the activities conducted by agencies concerned.

GaStat has been collecting data on pilgrims for the past 47 years.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 16, 2016.

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