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How Saudi Arabia’s boy scouts help serve this year’s Hajj pilgrims

Ismaeel Naar

Published: Updated:

Mecca, Saudi Arabia – While the media’s attention is typically focused on older and experienced soldiers serving this year’s Hajj pilgrims, the lesser known – and much younger – boy scouts of Saudi Arabia have been pulling their weight as well.

Around 8,000 boy scouts are serving this year. They come from several cities across Saudi Arabia and speak at least 14 languages among them. They are trained in first aid and civil defense, and have also participated in several field inspections.

“One of biggest tasks this year is to be the friendly faces who welcome the pilgrims and help them navigate the different pathways from the tent city of Mina to the Jamaraat complex,” Abdulrahman al-Madkhali, deputy leader of the Umm al-Qura boys scouts division, told Al Arabiya English.

"Our scouts are trained in speaking multiple languages and this comes as a big help for pilgrims who come from all over the world,” Madkhali added.

In addition to completing their own tasks with the pilgrims, the boy scouts work in tandem with other Hajj institutions; the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Ministry of Health, the Muslim World Organization and others.

This year’s class of scouts was unique compared to earlier years as it also included members who are versed in international sign language.

“Apart from English and Arabic, we also had boy scouts who took courses in sign language – both the Arabic and international versions – to help deaf pilgrims who might need assistance,” Madkhali told Al Arabiya.

Follow our Hajj 2017 correspondent on Twitter: @ismaeelrn