Travel to Mass Gatherings
Mass gatherings can occur in many countries and for many different reasons. Many religious, sporting, political, tourist events lead to the gathering of large numbers. The Hajj encompasses many of the health and security issues that are at play during any mass gatherings. Many of the same health and safety considerations for pilgrimages are the same as for any other trip.
The Hajj is an obligation a person owes to Allah. Hajj is incumbent upon an adult Muslim of sound mind, who has the necessary financial capability and physical capacity. Proper knowledge about all these is also essential pilgrim safety. The pilgrim should train by taking long walks every day in preparation for the walks needed to make during the course of Hajj.
- Medical assessment- examination and or dental exam is suggested.
- If pilgrim is of advanced in age, consider a companion for assistance.
- Get photocopies of all medical records, medicine prescriptions, documents
- Copies of pilgrim pass, Meningitis certificate, bank draft, ticket and other necessary documents like doctor's prescription, and other essential papers
- Dress for the season. Hajj season is in colder months and, hence the need to have proper clothing, a sweater and blanket. Rooms in Makkah and Madiah and the tents in Mina are air-conditioned and, hence, may feel cold, especially during night.
- Vaccination requirement: Meningitis vaccination with Menomune vaccine and certificate are mandatory. Make copy of original.
- Obey local laws: Narcotic drugs invoke the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Liquor is banned. If you are bringing medicines for your personal use, you should bring the doctor's written permission or prescription, otherwise medicines will be confiscated.
- Importing unacceptable material: Magazines, photographs, books and religious literature as well as audio and video cassettes may be confiscated at the customs.
- Luggage concerns: Baggage should be light and of normal size, easy to handle. Suitcases should not have any pouches on the outside. Other items will need to be carried such as dates, prayer mats, water, other assorted items like prayer caps prayer beads, gifts.
At your destination
Health and Security
- Pilgrimages such as the Hajj is an extremely well organized event. The processing and transportation of pilgrims is performed with military precision. Over 1 million persons are processed during the pilgrimage. The protocol of steps and stages the pilgrim must go through is very complex and detailed. Specialized tour operators are experienced in counseling and assisting the traveler. The pilgrim must make certain that they have all required documents, passes, bracelets during the whole process.
- At the airport, doctors are there to attend to any of medical problems that may require attention.
- Protection from the hot sun is essential. Drink plenty of water and try to eat citrus fruits to build up your resistance. The pilgrim will find many restaurants and eating places. It is suggested to eat a lot of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables and drink plenty of water during the course of the day. Water is not expensive to buy.
- The doctors and dispensaries are there to help in case of the need for medication. The common complaints are of dehydration, sun-stroke, cold and cough, flu upset stomach, scraped thighs and blisters on the feet.
- Menstruating or post-partum women have to postpone certain parts of the pilgrimage until such time that they are "clean". Counseling on postponing menstruation may be requested by Hajj pilgrims.
- Pilgrims should not carry any sizeable amount of money in case of theft. Care must be taken with watches and other valuables
- One should not try to make friends in Makkah, Medina and other places unless you know them. A number of pilgrims have been cheated by confidence men who gain the pilgrim's confidence and then take advantage of them.
- During the journey, an umbrella can help protect from the sun. One must make sure that you do not hurt anyone in the large crowds with it.
- The pilgrim must be careful not to slip on marble floors or while walking. Even one drop of water makes it very slippery. Many people have hurt themselves by slipping on the floor. Fractured wrists are common. In the past cuts were common during sacrificial ceremonies.
- Both at Makkah and Medina crossing roads, especially main road and highways may be dangerous. Traffic is very fast on these roads and a number of pilgrims get injured or die because of their own negligence. One should not try running across roads. Wait till traffic eases before crossing, even if you have to wait for a long time. One should never stand behind a bus, even if it is stationary or not started. Always ensure you have clear vision of both sides of the road while crossing a road. Never come out from behind a bus on to a road. Do not stand between parked buses.
- Even with fire-proof tents, small fires cannot be ruled out. Fire extinguishers should be available in case of an emergency. Pilgrims should be informed of emergency evacuation procedure. Read the fire extinguisher instructions on arrival at the camp.
- Every year invariably there is a stampede or near stampede condition at the site of stoning of the jamarat. One should be careful never get stuck in the crowd.
Any fever or infectious symptoms such as fever among the pilgrim or the pilgrim's close contacts on returning should be reported to a physician because of the risk of Meningitis as well as other infectious diseases. Pilgrims have been known to transmit infections to non vaccinated members of their household.
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