Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has deputized Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to oversee this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
The Saudi Deputy Premier and Defense Minister will lead receptions to welcome the heads of international hajj missions and accompanying military officers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Saudi state news agency announced that King Abdullah took the decision to deputize the Crown Prince on Friday, to “look after pilgrims’ comfort.”
An estimated two million Muslim pilgrims are expected to attend this year’s Hajj. This is fewer than in previous years due to construction projects currently underway to expand the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
Speaking earlier this year, Saudi Hajj Minister Bandar Al-Hajjar said: “The proportion of pilgrims outside of Saudi Arabia has been reduced by 20 percent, while the percentage of reduction from inside the Kingdom has been 50 percent.”
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz announced that Saudi Arabia has deployed 95,000 security forces to maintain order during this year’s Hajj, adding that these troops will be augmented by additional forces from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the National Guard, and the Presidency of the General Intelligence.
Commenting on the expansion projects being undertaken at the holy sites, he said: “We expect the capacity of the Mataf [circumambulation area] to be double when the project is completed.”
“We have confidence in the citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom to take the exceptional circumstances during this Hajj season into consideration, committing to Hajj regulations, and gaining the required permits needed for those who want to perform Hajj rituals,” he added.