Shopping, crowds and garbage
That night after dinner, Rasheeda and I went shopping for clothing for me. Having taken very little clothing and thus far purchased one pair of trousers and a jubbah for me, the need to add to my wardrobe was imminent. The need was even greater considering that having left some dirty clothes in a bag on the floor in my room at the hotel [in Azizia before we had gone to Araafah and Mina] only to discover upon returning that the parcel had gone missing.
On going downtown, we continued to see the magnitude of the Eid. People, people, people-everywhere and the streets are littered with garbage, garbage, garbage-everywhere.
Much has been said about the sanitation or lack of it at Hajj times by returning pilgrims. Let me add my two cents to the debate. It is true that the streets are filthy during the Hajj. But, what do you expect? Two point four million official pilgrims [2.4m], a million unofficial ones, thousands of beggars plus the hundreds of thousands of support staff to facilitate the pilgrims and the Hajj and it is a well neigh impossible task to keep the place clean.
The Hajj authorities have made the human resources available to do the cleaning. If it is that they do not clean properly, then it is the managers to be blamed for accepting sub-standard work. Additionally, I don’t think it was possible to do any kind of major cleaning during the three days of the Hajj. Outside the hotel where I was staying in Azizia, there was an endless stream of humanity traversing the roadway, one way up and one way down. The roadway, not unlike the Butler Highway ,that is , a dual carriageway going north and south, was divided by chain link wire fence. There were gates at two or three intervals on the road to the Jamaarah.
One such gate was directly in front our hotel. On the third day of the Hajj, I witnessed an attempt by pilgrims who were moving downwards on the left lane, attempt to come across on the right lane, where thousands were moving upwards, towards the Jamaarah. The police had to move swiftly to shut the huge gate and thus prevent what could have been a nasty stampede.
The point is, the authorities are trying their utmost to ensure a smooth, swift and safe performance of Hajj. This is evident too at the Jamaarah where there are three floors available to do the pelting. There seems to be a fourth floor in the making. I say this because of the cranes that are standing idle around the general area of the Jamaarah.
Indeed, in the areas that I have visited, there are a number of cranes on unfinished construction sites. These jobs, I assume, were put on hold for the Hajj season. And again, this makes much sense, for now construction vehicles will not be competing for road space on the already overburdened road network.
When we came into Makkah on the night of Thursday 11th December, that city was already reasonably clean. There were no mounds of rubbish on the street as there was in Azizia.
If I were to criticize the Saudi authorities, it will be for the lack of personal hygienic resources for their street cleaners. These guys, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, wear a CEPEP type uniform i.e. an orange coloured overall, no gloves, no boots and no dust masks. They use their bare hands to pick up all kinds of litter; they wear rubber slippers on their feet and I see some use their mouths to open their flip top cell phones while actually on the job. It is a recipe for illness.
Amidst this magnificent chaos, thousands and thousands would have found fulfillment-would have found peace, would have achieved the realization of their dreams…… performing the Hajj, walking in the footsteps of the Prophets (uwbp) and the awliyas (ra).