Dammam: Haj arrangements have improved over the years. Every season, the Saudi leadership, as represented by its various authorities concerned with Haj affairs, seeks to implement projects or suggestions that facilitate the performing of this ritual for the benefit of pilgrims.
This was not the case, however, in the past. In ancient times, particularly in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, the Haj journey was fraught with dangers. Pilgrims were robbed of their money and belongings by bandits. Some were killed while some others died from hunger and thirst in the desert.
All this changed when King Abdulaziz came to the throne. He put the security of pilgrims on top of his priorities. He spared no effort in providing safety and comfort to the pilgrims through implementing any suggestions or mega projects to serve them and facilitate performance of the rituals.
King Abdulaziz established in 1927 the Haj Management Committee to manage pilgrimage affairs. In 1946, he issued a royal order to form the General Directorate for Pilgrimage with the responsibility of Haj affairs, supervising all projects related to Haj, receiving pilgrims and providing them with required health care and transportation.
For over 30 years until his death, King Abdulaziz used to leave Riyadh for Makkah ahead of Haj to oversee preparations.
He deputized Crown Prince Saud four times and Prince Faisal twice to supervise the pilgrimage season in order to save public money and provide Haj expenses for those in need.
In addition, he used to send vehicles to take the disabled and the poor, who could not afford the expenses of the pilgrimage, from all regions of the Kingdom to Makkah and the holy sites, hosted them until the completion of the Haj rituals and then returned them to their homes.
The efforts made by the founder of the Kingdom to serve the pilgrims and take care of them during performing the rituals are unlimited. He made the congregation at the Grand Mosque stand behind one imam and implemented a comprehensive maintenance project to renovate and repair all damaged parts in the Grand Mosque, including its walls, floors, doors, columns, arcades and walkways.
King Abdulaziz also ordered authorities to pave mataf with flint stones, the first paved road in Makkah.