Based on Interviews
Revolutionary Changes in the Holy Sites -
Mataf, Masaa, Mina, Arafat and Jamarat -1
Dr. Mozammel Haque
This year 2015 Hajj I have got some new knowledge about Hajjis perception of the Holy sites and Hajj facilities. I noticed those who have performed Hajj previously twice or more times appreciate the Hajj facilities than those who came for the first time obviously ignorant of the earlier situation and the latest development. Lot of development and improvements has been made in the Holy sites and Hajj facilities for the last forty years for the safety, security and welfare of the pilgrims. But unfortunately those who are coming these days have no knowledge and experience of that improvement.
I had the opportunity to meet and discuss about this situation with some of the pilgrims who had performed Hajj previously. They are from Sudan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Nigeria. Following are the interviews conducted by me at the Muslim World League Building in Mina during Hajj.
Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin, Executive Director of International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance(ISRA), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who performed Hajj in 1986 and then in 1989 and then in 2008 and then this year in 2015. For convenience sake, I asked him to compare and contrast his experience of his first Hajj in 1986 with his experience of second Hajj in 2008 and then his present experience of Hajj in 2015.It’s a gap of nearly eight years each. Within this eight years, “What changes did you notice in the Holy sites,” I enquired.
Professor Mohamad Akram said, “During 1986/1989 Makkah and Madina were at that time very much basic. Basic in the sense not find high-riser building around them. Old houses were at the maximum ¾ storied. Even I think in term of services, I remember at that time when the Hujjaj came they were assigned to what they called it as Muwassassah; Saudi establishment. That very early days the Sheikhs/Muallem were responsible for the Hujjaj.”
Professor Akram talked about the houses/accommodation. Now while describing the situation of Haramain, the Tawaf and Masaa and also in Mina and Muzdalifah in 2010, Professor Mohamad Akram in terms of Haram, the Tawaf – the old building/the original building which now more or less demolished.”
The King Fahd extension was started in 1985 and completed in 1995.Professor Mohamad Akram said , “In 2000 when I came here at that time I still remember you can go and see Zam Zam well. There were steps going down near the Mataf – the steps going down, even then that was the only place where you can find the air-conditioned. So I remember people used to go down after Umrah, drunk water and somebody slept there. You can find specially after prayers only place to sleep there.” That was what he was saying about in 2000.
Professor Mohamad Akram said, “In 2005, King Fahd did the air-conditioned extension of the Haramain. Even the Masaa, at that time , there was, of course, floors, but not very wide. It was half wide that it is now. At that time, it was half of what it is now. One portion which was at that time was doubled now. Even the Safa-Marwah hills were still there. – you can climb the hills.”
How was Mina and Jamarat? In replying to my questions, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “The Jamarat was two floors – one was down and another was up. It was circling and except for Aqaba, I think half circle. Mina problem was not: one way going and another way coming. Everybody was coming from all directions; so there was sometimes stampede, especially during the peak hours.”
At that point I narrated my experience of stoning in Jamarat in 1985. I still remember in 1985 I had to jump from the upper floor to the ground floor and my throat was gone completely dry and tongue was stuck to the upper portion of my mouth and I was requesting one person who had a bottle of water and was making ablution with that. I begged him with sign language to give me that bottle of water.. That was in 1985.
Professor Mohamad Akram said, “That was still there. In Mina at that time there was no fixed tent. At that time, I remember, each and every Hajj organizer built their own tent and I think it was just a basic tent for the Hujjaj. It was not built-up tent; it was just put-up the tent for the time being. So it was very basic at that time.” Those were what Professor Mohamad Akram noticed in 2000.
Speaking about the King Fahd extension of the Haramain, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “But in 2000, there was King Fahd extension There was no Zam Zam. Zam Zam well; its construction was going on and it was temporarily closed; but there was Zam Zam water available through tap. I think, that time, Hilton Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel (Dar al-Tawheed) were there. I think those were the two 5-Star Hotels at that time in 2000. And here in, I think, Misfalah was there at that time. Here, in Mina, in 2000, there was I think built-in tent. I remember, built-in tent in 2000. People used to stay there in the tent. And other facilities such as public services, bath rooms, toilets etc. were provided. I mean situations were much better; much improved. There were temporary toilets, very basic. So many toilets, even in Mina, facilities of toilets and other services were started in 2000.”
Professor Mohamad Akram also mentioned, “In 2008, it is a total change. You have seen how Haramain expanded; only the Masaa is expanded. The rest is still the same. In 2005, King Abdullah came and the first thing he did was the expanding and the extension of Masaa – Sai’ee and then the other projects were undertaken.”
“In 2008, Jamarat was already around but the storied and all the roads leading - not fully completed. Two roads leading to the two levels – now it is five levels. At that time not fully completed yet. That time Metro was not there,” mentioned Professor Mohamad Akram.
Professor Mohamad Akram again said, “In 2008, Government has taken over; services were much better. And now, even though under expansion, I feel Haram is much wider. You feel there is much space for you to go now.”
Published in the Rabita Weekly from Mina
14 Dhul-Hijjah 1436-H, 28 September 2015