Mecca, Saudi Arabia - "If this was just a ritual, it wouldn't have gone on for so long and wouldn't attract such a large number of people every year," says Makhdoom, technician with a hardware service provider in the Mecca region.
The 41-year-old Bangladeshi has seen it all for 12 years ever since he first arrived in Saudi Arabia. "When it's Hajj season you don't look at the time of the day or the wage you earn. You are just determined to make things easy for the hujjaj (pilgrims)," he says.
For hundreds of thousands of people like Makhdoom, who are working tirelessly to ensure supplies, logistics and management of services to around 2.5 millions pilgrims, this is an essential part of living in and around Mecca. It's a privilege and they are proud to have it.
"You can't imagine taking vacation at this time and of course there are no off days till everything folds up and pilgrims go home," says Makhdoom, who moves from one site to another and project to project fixing things and ensuring smooth flow of operations.
Across Saudi Arabia, during Hajj, as many as 19 government entities offer 136 different kinds of public services with the help of 192,000 employees.
There are 3,000 scouts in and around Mecca guiding and helping pilgrims and 4,500 guards to protect pilgrims' camps alone.
Besides, a large number of young and old step out on the streets to help pilgrims and carrying out acts of kindness.
Shankar Thapa and his brother Manoj have been working in the same cafe in Jeddah for four years now. Jeddah being a business destination, there is not a dull moment for the two. Yet Hajj is a different proposition.
"All the year round we get businessmen who come to attend conferences but there is no time like Hajj because we see so many different people from so many different parts of the world," says Shankar.
"They usually have a very short stay in Jeddah but it still gives us a sense of the magnitude of this annual event," says Shankar, the elder of the two brothers.
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