RIYADH (Web Desk) – A stoning ritual which led to the deaths of about 2,300 people during last year’s hajj will be more tightly controlled during next month’s pilgrimage, Saudi newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The period during which pilgrims can perform the Jamarat ritual will be reduced by 12 hours, the Saudi Gazette reported.
The symbolic stoning of the devil will be performed as usual over three days beginning September 11 at Mina, about five kilometres (three miles) east of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site.
But this year there will be no stoning allowed from 6:00 to 10:30 am on the first day, from 2:00 to 6:00 pm on the second day and from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm on the final day, the hajj ministry said.
“This procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and will prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding,” the Saudi Gazette quoted ministry undersecretary Hussain al-Sharif as saying.
He did not elaborate on how the new time restrictions would reduce the potential for overcrowding. The stampede was the worst disaster in hajj history.
It occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, a structure resembling a huge parking garage which hosts the stoning ritual and cost more than $1 billion to build.
It is almost one kilometre (more than half a mile) long and allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual.