|[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]A Saudi employee (left) uses a scanner to read the smart card of a non-contact pilgrim in Mecca on July 18, 2021
AFP Fayez Nureldine, Fayez Noureddine
Makkah Al-Mukarramah (AFP) - It took the sixty-year-old Egyptian Ibrahim Fasting seven hours to find his children who went missing in heavy crowds during the Hajj nearly 30 years ago, but Saudi Arabia's adoption of a smart card carrying the pilgrims' data allayed his fears this time.
Siam, 64, recalls his previous bitter experience, saying, “During the Hajj of 1993, my sons were lost to me and I was unable to find them until after seven hours… Now he is not afraid for my wife and my companions,” thanks to a “smart card” he hung with a yellow ribbon around his neck.
"I got lost in Mina (during a previous pilgrimage) and I could not describe my place, as all the camps are similar to each other," said the Egyptian veterinarian Hazem Rihan, 43.
In the Hajj survey this year, the second during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kingdom introduced smart cards that allow the arrival and transfer of pilgrims without human contact in the holy areas, and also deployed robots to distribute Zamzam water, to ensure the application of social separation and reduce transmission of infection.
The card includes the pilgrim's basic and health data, the registration number of the person performing the pilgrimage, his exact place of residence, and the name and phone number of the organizer of his trip. The card was provided with a barcode that could be read electronically.
“We use the smart card in all our movements,” said Ibrahim, who came from Dammam in the east of the kingdom to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Riding buses and entering the mosque (the Haram), as well as reaching our camp and reaching the bed.”
Sixty thousand residents vaccinated against COVID-19 participated in the rituals, submitted their applications and received approvals for Hajj electronically.
The cards bore the colors yellow, green, red and blue, and the authorities drew paths in the same colors on the ground to guide the pilgrims.
Upon its launch, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah explained that the card will help track any pilgrims who have lost contact, as organizers can find out all the pilgrims' data by reading the bar code in their cards with an electronic scanner.
“Before that, things were completely different,” said pharmacist Ahmed, who came from the coastal city of Jeddah. We would miss or be late for prayers...sometimes.”
He added, “From the first time I applied for Hajj via the website, things went smoothly. Submitted, accepted, paid and printed the statement” without human contact.
- 'Digital pilgrimage' -