Hajj 2015 Experience

28th October 2015

The annual amassing of two million people in one city at the same time is unprecedented, the largest annual pilgrimage anywhere on the planet. People from 160 countries pack together under the unrelenting Arabian sun to participate. The issue of pilgrim safety and general experience of the Hajj is an obvious one, and is something that was once again highlighted in the starkest way this year. As pilgrims return home and take stock of the tragic events surrounding this year’s Hajj, it is a time for reflection on a pilgrimage which this year drew an outpouring of grief from both the international Muslim and the non-Muslim communities.

Background – The Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust

Scotland is one of the more modestly represented countries on the Hajj, with roughly only 2000 pilgrims undertaking the journey in 2012. Yet, emerging from Scotland’s shores is a Trust that seeks to position Scotland as a pioneer in the Western world in its provision of Hajj and Umrah services for its pilgrims. The Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust, founded in 2012 after a two-year in-depth study, is an independent charity established by professionals from various fields, from community development strategists and health specialists to government advisors and technology experts. The Trust’s objective is to provide a range of pilgrim services, including healthcare, safety and fraud related risks for Scottish Muslims undertaking the Holy journeys and aims to have its basic services in operation by 2016.

This year saw the first public engagement of the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust with the Haji pilgrims. The centrepiece of their work was the trialling of the iMbrace, an innovative medical wristband which securely logged personalised medical information of the pilgrims, allowing authorised NHS certified GPs to rapidly access patients’ medical records on location in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This enabled timely, on the ground personal medical advice and support to all Scottish pilgrims in Mina and Makkah during Hajj. For its launch, hundreds of Scottish pilgrims registered with the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust to trial the iMbrace wristband. Habib Malik, Director of the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust, said:

Overall, the iMbrace was a success. It allowed us to monitor and quickly respond to the needs of the pilgrims in our care”. “Of course, there is far more to be done.”

Mr. Malik continued:

Everybody, including the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust must constantly seek ways to protect the safety of pilgrims to ensure that the terrible scenes we witnessed this year are not once again repeated; our hearts go out to all of the victims, their families and loved ones.

Speaking specifically of the iMbrace, Mr. Malik stated that:

Work is already underway to improve the iMbrace so that we can help even more pilgrims next year.

On the ground

Supported throughout by a Scotland-based team, the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust sent a small but dedicated medical and logistical contingent to Saudi Arabia, which proved invaluable during their stay at Makkah and Mina. Mr. Malik, who has extensive media training, was able to supply real time, accurate reports of the ground conditions to local and global media, helping to communicate to the world what was actually happening. The Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust quickly became the voice of authority amongst mainstream Western news stations and social media. One pilgrim who had registered with the Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust said the Trust is:

“something that is needed…the whole Hajj industry needs to be better regulated by the authorities. This (the Trust) is a good project”

 

Looking forward

The Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust is already drawing together an extensive range of expertise from the public and private sectors to deliver high quality safety training and equipment for its pilgrims.

“In Saudi Arabia itself, we are seeking to expand our presence in the key cities and transport gateways to ensure the thorough provision of medical care, logistical support, information and advice to pilgrims for, and beyond, the duration of Hajj. This will be achieved through the combination of innovative technology, and practical on-the-ground support from a dedicated team”

Share your experience

The Scottish Hajj and Umrah Trust invites all pilgrims to share their experiences and leave their comments below this article, so that we can work together to improve our services for next year’s Hajj.

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