Hajj is bin Salman's time to shine

Opinion: With some 2 million Muslims expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia for holy pilgrimage, all eyes set on Saudi crown prince to showcase his leadership, and make sure everything goes smoothly

Smadar Perry|
Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that attracts 2 billion Muslims worldwide. The event has been taking place for decades, and the number of pilgrims varies depending on circumstances such as wars, economic conditions and political considerations.
<< Follow Ynetnews on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok >>
More stories:
In the past three years, the event was significantly scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, things are back on track this year, with some 2 million Muslims expected to participate and an estimated revenue to the tune of around $12 billion.
2 View gallery
המוני המתפללים במכה
המוני המתפללים במכה
(Photo: Shutterstock)
While only 67 hotels are operating in Mecca and Medina, authorities have set up large tents and convinced homeowners to rent out their luxurious villas and apartments to accommodate the pilgrims. Homeowners who rent out their properties at inflated prices receive free flight tickets and health insurance from the government, as long as they vacate the premises.
Above all, this is another opportunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to showcase his leadership. Although kings, presidents and prime ministers from Arab countries do not mingle with the masses, their eyes are always watching from a distance. Any failure, such as the 2015 stampede in which around 2,000 pilgrims were trampled to death, will be immediately attributed to the heir apparent's shortcomings.
This year, temporary green fences have been set up at critical sites, which can be identified remotely, and thousands of police officers and security personnel have been deployed to keep the crowds away from areas that may pose a crush risk. Meanwhile, hotel prices, as well as those of restaurants and souvenir shops, have ballooned. But, as Ibrahim from one of the Galilee villages tells me, there is no one to fulfill their grand dream and bring back souvenirs and gifts, even at discounted prices.
One returns from the hajj with a chest bursting from pride, placing the little replica of the sacred stone, the Kaaba, near their television set in the living room or building a small replica of one of the Muslim tourist sites. Even a jar of local honey or dates, anything that will remind them of the fulfillment of their dream.
2 View gallery
יורש העצר מוחמד בן סלמאן
יורש העצר מוחמד בן סלמאן
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
(Photo: AFP)
This is also a historic milestone: For the first time in the history of the hajj, Muslim women from Europe, Australia, the United States and the rest of the Arab world are granted permission to perform the pilgrimage without male escorts. Women can now come on their own, in family groups, or with their female friends, just like men. Of course, they will be accommodated separately, keeping a distance from members of the opposite sex.
And what about the Iranians? This is the first time a delegation has been invited, with a cap of 2,300 pilgrims (the allocation is pre-determined by Saudi Arabia, with each country receiving a specific number of registered visitors through official websites, on a first-come, first-served basis). The Saudi hosts are going out of their way to provide a comfortable experience for their guests from Iran, but at the same time, they do not let their guard down.
In addition, Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank, who have been allocated hundreds of spots, will receive accessible accommodations. Most of them will also receive flight tickets from Jordan's airport, from which a special flight will also carry dozens of Muslim pilgrims from Israel.
It seems that the time has not yet come for direct flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Riyadh or from Eilat to Jeddah, despite explicit promises made directly from senior Saudi officials to their Israeli counterparts, who "expressed particular concern" for Arab citizens of Israel.
The commenter agrees to the privacy policy of Ynet News and agrees not to submit comments that violate the terms of use, including incitement, libel and expressions that exceed the accepted norms of freedom of speech.