During this year’s Hajj, Saudi Arabian authorities rolled out electronic ‘Hajj cards’ that allowed pilgrims contactless access to religious sites, accommodation, and transportation.
The Hajj cards aimed to “to ensure the safety and health of pilgrims, and the safety of personnel working in the service of pilgrims,” King Salman bin Abdulaziz said during his speech on the first day of Eid al-Adha.
The annual pilgrimage – seen as a rite for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to take part in it – usually welcomes millions of Muslims from around the world.
Crowding, which has resulted in deaths before, had always been a concern for the authorities in the past.
For the past two years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom limited the number of attendees allowed to perform Hajj to only 60,000 citizens and residents in order to prevent the virus from spreading.
The Hajj cards will allow “all transactions to be contactless,” and is expected to be developed into a virtual wallet as well for future pilgrimages, the Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Amro al-Maddah, said.
The pilgrims were each given a smart card in either green, red, yellow, or blue. The colors correspond to markings on the ground that lead the pilgrims throughout the different stages of the Hajj, as well as indicate which guide they must follow.
The cards also contain basic information about each pilgrim, including: their registration number, exact location of their accommodation, mobile phone number, and the ID number of their guide.
“Things were completely different before. We got lost on our way for prayers or we arrived late… all of our efforts were in vain,” Ahmed Achour, an Egyptian pharmacist living in Jeddah, told AFP.
Robots were also set up around the Kaaba to hand out bottled Zamzam water to pilgrims and personnel.
“Bottled Zamzam water is much better. There are fewer people and there’s no need to queue,” Pakistani-American Aneela, 37, told AFP.
Egyptian pilgrim Siam said the new technologies meant the Hajj was “keeping up with the times.”