MAKKAH: From this year, Malaysian haj pilgrims will enjoy air-conditioning in their tents in Arafah during wukuf, the pinnacle of haj.
This will be a welcome respite for them in the searing desert heat and is one among several improvements to ensure a more comfortable Masyair phase this year.
Previously, the tents in Arafah were only equipped with mist fans and this was not entirely effective in keeping pilgrims cool especially now that the haj season is during the hot summer months.
Muassasah Southeast Asia chairman Mohamad Amin Hassan Andaqiri said Malaysian pilgrims would be the first to enjoy air conditioning in Arafah and their tents would “be even better than those of the VIPs”.
“Even if the heat outside is 52 degrees Celcius, it will only be 24 degrees inside the tents,” he told the Malaysian media after a ta’aruf (introduction) event to mark the impending start of the 1439H haj season.
Also present were Tabung Haji (TH) head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman and other senior TH officials.
Masyair, a crucial part of the haj, involves pilgrims travelling from Makkah to Arafah for Wukuf, then on to Muzdalifah, followed by four days in Mina. They would be spending a lot of time out in the open or in tents.
TH officials had said that average temperatures this year was expected to be 46 degrees Celcius, with very low humidity levels making it difficult for the body to regulate itself through sweating.
Muassasah are organisations set up from 1987 to improve haj operations in Saudi Arabia.
There are different Muassasah for pilgrims from Arab countries, Europe, and Africa for example. For Malaysian pilgrims, TH’s counterparts are Muassasah Adillah in Madinah and Southeast Asia Muassasah in Makkah.
Last year, there were new fireproof tents for Arafah and Mina made of more sophisticated material.
In Mina, the tents are equipped with air coolers.
Mohamad Amin said Malaysian pilgrims were “extraordinary” and it would be a blessing for Saudi authorities if all pilgrims were as disciplined as those from Malaysia.
“That shows the experience of those who work at TH, and we also learn from them. There is improvement every year, more planning and more efficiency.
“We have good relations with TH and other Southeast Asian agencies. We are like family. We work as a team, with one objective — to support the pilgrims,” he said.
Syed Saleh thanked the Muassasah for the improvements this year and said this was possible courtesy of the good relationship between the Malaysian and Saudi governments.
He also expressed appreciation for the fast-track immigration pre-clearance for Malaysian haj pilgrims which has shortened the arrival process considerably.
“Going by our success, several other countries have also appealed that it be allowed for their pilgrims too.”
Malaysia is the first country accorded the privilege of pre-clearance, with all immigration processes completed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
All pilgrims have to do upon arrival in Madinah or Jeddah is to have their luggage scanned before boarding buses to the hotel.
Meanwhile, TH haj ibadah guide Abdul Fatah Awang welcomed the air-conditioned tents in Arafah, saying it would enable the pilgrims to carry out their religious obligations more comfortably.
“Last year, I was on duty in Arafah and it was challenging. There were mist fans but they run out of water very fast and inside the packed tents under the sun, it felt like being in an oven.
“This is a significant improvement and I hope pilgrims will make full use of their more comfortable environment.”