SAUDI Arabia has announced plans to introduce electronic identification bracelets for all pilgrims heading to Mecca as part of a safety drive.
Containing personal and medical information, the e-bracelets will help authorities provide care and identify people, the official Saudi Press Agency SPA said on Thursday.
Water-resistant and connected to GPS, the devices will also instruct worshippers on timings of prayers and a multi-lingual help desk to guide especially non-Arabic speaking pilgrims around the various rituals of the annual Islamic event.
Every year, millions of Muslims travel to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites, which are under the custody of Saudi Arabia.
Last year, authorities say 769 pilgrims died in the stampede in the Mecca district of Mina when thousands of pilgrims converged on a walkway intersection. The majority of the victims were Iranian nationals.
To address the security issues, nearly a thousand new surveillance cameras have been installed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, monitoring pilgrim movements, Saudi newspapers have reported.
Taking part in the pilgrimage at least once in one’s lifetime is a major obligation for all able-bodied Muslims of financial means and between two and three million people participate in the six-day ritual every year.
The annual Muslim pilgrimage re-enacts the actions of the Prophet Muhammad in his “farewell pilgrimage” in AD 632.