Muslims with physical and financial abilities are required to perform hajj once in their lifetime, but those who arrive in Saudi Arabia and then fall ill are given a hand to get to the finish line.
Well-equipped ambulances with highly trained paramedics on Saturday transferred 23 foreign patient pilgrims from Madina, 340 km north of Makkah to Arafat’s Public Hospital in the Muslim holy city.
Performing hajj involves journeying between different points, but standing in the Arafat area is a mandatory rite, without which the hajj pilgrimage would be invalid.
Hajj officially begins on Sunday as more than 1.3 million Muslims camp out overnight in the Mina tent city before moving to Arafat the next day.
The overnight stay in Mina, also referred to as the day of Tarwiyah, is not compulsory to complete hajj.
Ahmad al-Kharoubi, the director of the Arafat Public Hospital, told Al Arabiya News that the unwell pilgrims were spared Mina and moved directly to Arafat.
Kharoubi said seven cases were under intensive care and six will undergo surgery. The rest he said will be able to stand on Monday, the day of Arafat.
The Arafat hospital has 300 regular beds, 12 emergency beds and 28 intensive care units and has 248 fixed staff and 180 mobile members, including paramedics.
Muneera bint Hamdan al-Osaimi, assistant undersecretary in the medical services affairs department at the Ministry of Health, said 5901 nurses have been deployed in Makkah and Madina.
For Muslims, hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It takes place in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
The pilgrimage journey lasts for five days.