Saudi Arabia’s Hajj 2023 Expo Promises A High-Tech Pilgrimage
Hajj is one of Islam’s most important pilgrimages, with around 2.5 million people making the journey in 2019, before COVID-19 travel restrictions forced officials to limit numbers.
This year, Dr. Tawfiq Al Rabiah, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, revealed that the number of pilgrims would be allowed to return to pre-pandemic levels. Due to the enormous scale of the annual Mecca festival, Saudi Arabian authorities must do everything in their power to ensure everything runs smoothly and safely.
During the Hajj Expo 2023, service providers from various fields came together to demonstrate their solutions, many of which involved emerging technologies.
One of the most notable new developments is the launch of a smartcard which, with the help of the Nusuk foundation, will store a user’s personal, residential, and health information in the Nusuk app. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) will also help with “everything from performing the rituals to leaving the holy sites and the Kingdom”. Last week, the Saudi government announced that registrations would open on the ministry’s website and the Nusuk application.
Along with official service providers, private companies also exhibited their solutions. The Tawkeel application was created by a Saudi-based tech startup and aims to help pilgrims “delegate rituals”. Often, worshippers cannot travel to Mecca due to disabilities or financial reasons. The new app will allow those people to track the progress of the person performing rituals on their behalf and can also be used to ask them to recite specific prayers.
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Due to the scale of the event, Hajj officials often have to deal with severe accidents, including stampedes and crushes that have injured hundreds or even thousands of people. With that in mind, Tuwaiq ambulance showcased their latest vehicle, capable of evacuating 10 patients during an emergency, complete with onboard oxygen and medical supplies.
As well as emergency vehicles, site infrastructure also needs careful consideration. This year’s event will see the addition of 25 km of new ring roads around the site, which will link “the First Ring Road with the Masar project and the Makkah Reconstruction and Development project”, according to Saleh Al Rasheed, chief executive of the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites.
The Hajj expo 2023 has shown how seriously the Kingdom is taking digital transformation. This year’s pilgrimage is shaping up to be more technologically advanced than ever before, blending traditional and modern values without diluting the importance of this sacred event.