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  #1  
Old 12-08-2012, 09:22 AM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is offline
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Is Modern Mecca Good at Handling the Hajj?

Does Mecca have a modern airport capable of receiving international flights? Plenty of customs officers so there aren't long lines? Modern highways? Enough hotel rooms? Enough police?

Also, does the Hajj happen at specific times (as in, the next Hajj will be March 17th, or whatever)? Or can any Muslim just decide to Hajj today or next week or whenever he can get the time off work?

Last edited by HeyHomie; 12-08-2012 at 09:22 AM..
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2012, 10:11 AM
Fish Cheer Fish Cheer is offline
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Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
Also, does the Hajj happen at specific times (as in, the next Hajj will be March 17th, or whatever)? Or can any Muslim just decide to Hajj today or next week or whenever he can get the time off work?
Quote:
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:15 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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I don't know about travel and accomodations, but the Amanda Ripley's book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes describes how the actual holy sites themselves have had tragic problems with crowds and stampedes over the last two decades or so. In 1990, a stampede killed 1426 people in a pedestrian tunnel, in 1994 270 people were killed, at least 118 killed in 1998, 35 killed in a crush in 2001, 251 killed in 2004, 346 killed in 2006, all told over 2500 people in the last 22 years or so. The crowds there are huge, and the holy sites weren't designed with modern crowds of that size in mind.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:20 AM
bienville bienville is online now
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Originally Posted by pravnik View Post
In 1990, a stampede killed 1426 people in a pedestrian tunnel
Do you have a link for this story? 1426 people is a helluva lot of people. That's half the number killed when the WTC was taken down.

Last edited by bienville; 12-08-2012 at 10:21 AM.. Reason: typo
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:23 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
Do you have a link for this story? 1426 people is a helluva lot of people. That's half the number killed when the WTC was taken down.
1,400 Reported Killed in Mecca Tunnel Crush
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:30 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Thanks, that's the one - googling "1990 Al-Ma'aisim tunnel stampede" comes up with more, showing it to be the deadliest peacetime stampede in modern history. There was an bigger one in China during WW II, when Chinese citizens crushed into a tunnel to escape Japanese bombing, but the 1990 Hajj stampede was from a panic that occurred for no apparent reason.

Last edited by pravnik; 12-08-2012 at 10:32 AM..
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:34 AM
bienville bienville is online now
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Thanks.

The very notion is horrifying having not yet read the article. So . . . now I am about to actually read the article. Hmmm, wonder if I will be further horrified. (why do I do this to myself?)
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:55 AM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is offline
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An aspect of the 1990 stampede was that some of the bodies were never identified, leaving families waiting for people who never came home. This happened to a family in my city, five children who lost their parents. With help from the local authority the oldest, a girl of seventeen was able to assume the role of head of the family so they could stay together.
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:56 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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While the 1990 disaster was a record one, crowd-related deaths appear to be a regular part of the Haj. A few dozen to a few hundred people get trampled to death most years. You can't really attribute this to poor management. You're just facing a situation where literally millions of people are packing into a small area. If you somehow expanded the capacity, you'd just get more people showing up to fill it. And the main complaint made against the Saudis are over their attempts to limit the number of people coming to the Hajj.
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  #10  
Old 12-08-2012, 01:15 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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Why does the Hajj occur at a set time? I'm not trying to be critical here, I'm Christian and of course our holidays occur at certain dates.

Is there a historical factor involved? If not, could crowds be relieved by having Hajj occur, if not constantly, then more than once a year?
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:17 PM
wheresmymind wheresmymind is offline
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There was a good article in The New Yorker this spring about the Hajj. The short answer to your question is "not really, but it's improving." There are deaths every year due to trampling, dehydration, and heat exhaustion, but the powers that be are spending a lot of time and money to remedy this. The basic problem is that you're moving millions of people around a relatively small area of desert in a short amount of time, and they all participate in specific rites that involve many people in a small area (walking around the Kaaba, Stoning the Devil, etc). Part of the problem is that even as infrastructure improves, more and more people are attempting the Hajj due to increased prosperity and decreased travel costs. Whereas a generation ago only the very wealthy could afford to travel to Mecca, now those with more modest means can save up enough to go.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:51 PM
smithsb smithsb is offline
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They fly into Jeddah airport, about 75 km away. There is a separate terminal for the teeming masses who arrive on seemingly endless charters. Regular wealthy Hajj goers with passports deplane from the regular commercial flights at the standard terminal. The Hajj terminal is off in the desert with large sculptured tents. The masses are bused from there to Mecca. Security is high. No tourism. Arrive, do Hajj, back to airport, see you. I lived in Jeddah a couple of years and it really had little impact on Jeddah. There was occasionally a checkpoint on the way to the golf course near the airport. Just meant someone had wandered off.

It actually runs smoothly except at the choke points. Thousands of folks at the height of religious rapture are tough to control when they rush an area. The organizers are always tuning things up from year to year. And if you die during the Hajj, it's off to paradise.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:20 PM
Magiver Magiver is offline
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Originally Posted by pravnik View Post
Thanks, that's the one - googling "1990 Al-Ma'aisim tunnel stampede" comes up with more, showing it to be the deadliest peacetime stampede in modern history. There was an bigger one in China during WW II, when Chinese citizens crushed into a tunnel to escape Japanese bombing, but the 1990 Hajj stampede was from a panic that occurred for no apparent reason.
112 degree heat and an air conditioned tunnel. They really didn't understand why people stopped inside the tunnel? It was frickin hot.
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  #14  
Old 12-08-2012, 10:21 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by Baker View Post
Why does the Hajj occur at a set time? I'm not trying to be critical here, I'm Christian and of course our holidays occur at certain dates.

Is there a historical factor involved? If not, could crowds be relieved by having Hajj occur, if not constantly, then more than once a year?
It's a really old ritual. It had already been established as an annual event on those same four days for centuries before Muhammad was born. According to Islamic history, it's a four thousand year old ritual that goes back to Abraham.

So the chances of rescheduling it are non-existent. I mean Christmas has only been going on for two thousand years but imagine what it would like trying to move that to June.
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Old 12-08-2012, 11:01 PM
Monty Monty is offline
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Originally Posted by Baker View Post
Why does the Hajj occur at a set time? I'm not trying to be critical here, I'm Christian and of course our holidays occur at certain dates.
For your edification.

Last edited by Monty; 12-08-2012 at 11:01 PM..
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:01 PM
wheresmymind wheresmymind is offline
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Originally Posted by Monty View Post
For your edification.
I think Baker's point was that they occur on a specific date, as opposed to throughout the year. Easter Sunday (and hence virtually all of the moveable feasts, as they occur "X days before/after Easter") can fall on any number of dates in the Spring, but every year everyone celebrates it on the same day (well, one of two days really).
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:04 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Considerable new construction has occurred in Mecca in recent years, partly in an attempt to remedy some of these problems. This has involved demolishing many historic buildings which were of historical and archaeological significance.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:35 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by wheresmymind View Post
I think Baker's point was that they occur on a specific date, as opposed to throughout the year. Easter Sunday (and hence virtually all of the moveable feasts, as they occur "X days before/after Easter") can fall on any number of dates in the Spring, but every year everyone celebrates it on the same day (well, one of two days really).
The Hajj occurs on the same four days every year. It's no different than Christmas which always falls on December 25.

The reason the Hajj appears to occur on different days is because the traditional Islamic calendar does not match up to the Christian calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar year, which lasts for 354 days while the Christian calendar is based on the solar year, which lasts for 365 days.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:48 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by Mk VII View Post
Considerable new construction has occurred in Mecca in recent years, partly in an attempt to remedy some of these problems. This has involved demolishing many historic buildings which were of historical and archaeological significance.
There's a religious issue involved also. The Wahhabi religious movement, which is the branch of Sunni that is the official religion in Saudi Arabia, has a controversial policy on historical sites. They feel that only God and the Kaaba are to be venerated and shrines and other historical sites are blasphemous because they draw pilgrims and worshipers away. So the Wahhabis often target historical sites for demolition.

Keep in mind, these aren't rival religions. The Wahhabis are demolishing Islamic religious sites like mosques.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 12-09-2012 at 09:48 PM..
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:03 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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Incidentally, as we've discussed in some other threads, given the present size of Mecca, even if no Moslem was allowed to do more than one hajj in their lifetime, only somewhere between one-twentieth and one-fifth of all the Moslems in the world can ever do a hajj.
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  #21  
Old 12-10-2012, 11:19 AM
wheresmymind wheresmymind is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
The Hajj occurs on the same four days every year. It's no different than Christmas which always falls on December 25.

The reason the Hajj appears to occur on different days is because the traditional Islamic calendar does not match up to the Christian calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar year, which lasts for 354 days while the Christian calendar is based on the solar year, which lasts for 365 days.
Yeah I know. Baker originally wondered why the Hajj was always at a particular time (instead of spread throughout the year, which would make the logistics much easier), but said said that (s)he understood why, because all of the Christian holidays (s)he celebrates fall on specific days too. Monty pointed out that plenty of Christian holidays fall on different dates every year depending when Easter falls. I was trying to say that the moveable feasts in Christianity are no different from the Hajj; everyone celebrates them at the same time, even if they fall on different dates every year.
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Old 12-10-2012, 11:59 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Okay, my mistake. I thought you were suggesting that the Hajj was a movable event like Easter or Thanksgiving rather than a fixed event like Christmas or Halloween.
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  #23  
Old 12-10-2012, 12:33 PM
flodnak flodnak is offline
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Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
Also, does the Hajj happen at specific times (as in, the next Hajj will be March 17th, or whatever)? Or can any Muslim just decide to Hajj today or next week or whenever he can get the time off work?
As several posters have already mentioned, the date of the Hajj is fixed. However, Muslims can and do visit Mecca and the holy sites there at other times of the year. It doesn't count as doing the Hajj, of course. More like a Christian church group on a bus tour of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the off-season.
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  #24  
Old 12-10-2012, 04:01 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
There's a religious issue involved also. The Wahhabi religious movement, which is the branch of Sunni that is the official religion in Saudi Arabia, has a controversial policy on historical sites. They feel that only God and the Kaaba are to be venerated and shrines and other historical sites are blasphemous because they draw pilgrims and worshipers away. So the Wahhabis often target historical sites for demolition.

Keep in mind, these aren't rival religions. The Wahhabis are demolishing Islamic religious sites like mosques.
As I understand it, they are the more extreme version of the standard muslim view that any depiction - of man, animals, especially religious figures - runs the risk of being converted in the minds of the misguided into a idol, an object of worship rather than a depiction.

As a result some of the most historical sites of Mecca are being torn up and replaced by hideous modernist architecture.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruc...heritage_sites
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