Hajj pilgrims perform the Farewell Tawaf
Hajj pilgrims perform the farewell Tawaf. Image Credit: SPA/Twitter

Cairo: A major exhibition and conference, due to start Monday in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah, will discuss, among other things, the role of electronic measures in facilitating Muslims’ undertaking of the annual Hajj rites in the country.

At the centre of the event, officially known as Hajj Expo, is the “Makkah Route Initiative”, a Saudi plan aimed to facilitate pre-departure procedures for Muslim pilgrims

Saudi Interior Ministry last year relaunched the “Makkah Route Initiative” that gives pilgrims from five countries access to facilities including finalising Hajj-related procedures in their home countries.

The initiative, which kicked off on a trial basis in 2017, covers pilgrims from Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco and Bangladesh.

Facilities offered to pilgrims coming from the five countries include issuance of electronic visas at home, finalising passport procedures as well as tagging and sorting out luggage at the departure airports.

Accordingly, on arrival in Saudi Arabia, those pilgrims head directly to their residences in the holy cities of Makkah and Medina while their luggage is delivered right to their places of stay.

The Hajj Expo, running until January 12, will feature a discussion session titled “Planning for Creativity—a future vision for Hajj and Umrah services” aimed to throw light on electronic measures including the “Makkah Route Initiative” and outcomes of digital transformation in pilgrimage-related services.

Participants in the event will also address efforts to develop services offered to pilgrims including housing, hospitality, catering, healthcare and enriching their experience, according to Saudi news portal Sabq.

The Hajj Expo aims to bring together decision-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers to look into and implement a host of solutions and innovative choices to enable pilgrims to undertake their journeys easily and comfortably as well as to propose future projects to develop related infrastructures and religious and historical sites, the Saudi news agency SPA reported.

The event is seen as an opportunity for investors to forge partnerships with all governmental and private sectors to boost fast-paced digital transition and technical applications to serve pilgrims.

Several ministers of Islamic affairs from around the world and diplomats based in Saudi Arabia as well as governmental and private sector institutions engaged in the Hajj and Umrah services are expected to attend the gathering.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the Hajj rituals physically or financially, flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage, annually.