The Salaam team: Hajj’s unsung heroes

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The Civil Defense volunteer team before being deployed to check the pilgrims' camps (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Veteran volunteer Mashael Al-Fallatah conducts a safety investigation in one of Mina's camps (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 12 August 2019

The Salaam team: Hajj’s unsung heroes

  • The whole process of organizing Hajj takes months

MINA: When one thinks of Hajj, the first people to come to mind are the millions of Muslims who come from all corners of the earth to partake in the holiest of all Islamic rites. It is all too easy to forget about the heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make Hajj as safe and organized as possible.
One of the most important groups involved in the safety of pilgrims is the Saudi Civil Defense. Arab News reported back in July that the Civil Defense would dispatch 17,000 officers and 3,000 vehicles to help cover Hajj.
These officers are responsible for numerous tasks, including helping any pilgrim in need, performing crowd control, providing directions, and more. However, due to the sheer mass of pilgrims, they also recruit volunteers to help out.
These volunteers, known as the Salaam (Peace) team, are certified by the Ministry of Interior to assist the Civil Defense and are participating in Hajj this year for the third time. One of them, Muneera Al-Draiwish, told Arab News about the various responsibilities that a member of the team has.
“There are 125 of us, separated into about 10 groups. We spread awareness about certain dangerous practices that some pilgrims follow, such as overloading power sockets or leaving their trash in the streets. On Arafat Day, we volunteer as paramedics as well,” she said.
Al-Draiwish added that all volunteers undergo training to be able to assist pilgrims — their first aid training includes basic life support — and to detect safety risks and report infarctions.
She also stressed that while pilgrims may find their instructions annoying, they exist for a good reason. “Even if it seems like we’re trying to make things harder for you, we actually just want to keep you safe,” she said.
Mashael Al-Fallatah, another volunteer, allowed Arab News to accompany her on an inspection inside one of the camps at Mina, where she scrupulously checked for safety infarctions including overloaded power sockets, overcrowding, expired fire extinguishers, and a lack of clear emergency exit signs.
“We have to check all of these things to make sure they are licensed and conform to safety standards, to ensure safe accommodation for pilgrims,” she said. “The exit signs, for example, should be fluorescent or neon so you can see them in the dark. And an overcrowded room will make it harder for pilgrims to evacuate in case of an emergency. All of these incidents need to be reported and rectified.”
Al-Fallatah says she takes a lot of pride in what she does and told Arab News that she could see the positive results of her and her teammates’ efforts over the past few years. “These pilgrims are guests in my country, and I personally won’t stand to see them put at risk during what should be the greatest experience of their lives,” she explained.
“Things are much better now than they were a few years ago, now that we have a capable team of women to conduct investigations — especially when some of us are mothers and homemakers ourselves,” she added.
Al-Fallatah hopes that those who are planning to perform Hajj will research their options carefully and learn as much as they can about pilgrimage safety before they embark on their journey.
As for those interested in joining their ranks, volunteer Samira Al-Harithy says that the Civil Defense is always looking for people to sign up, and one can easily do so by going to their website or following them on social media.
“We don’t just participate in Hajj, we are also active during the last 10 days of Ramadan, in both Makkah and Madinah,” she said. “It’s a wonderful and fulfilling experience.”

Madinah museum showcases over 2,000 rare artifacts

Updated 23 August 2019

Madinah museum showcases over 2,000 rare artifacts

  • The museum has issued more than 44 books and publications on Madinah’s architecture

MADINAH: Dar Al-Madinah Museum offers visitors the opportunity to view historical pieces associated with the Prophet’s life. It features artifacts that capture the history, heritage, social life and culture of Madinah.

The museum’s executive director, Hassan Taher, said that it aims to promote the noble values of the Prophet Muhammad, encourage a sense of belonging and capture the history, culture and heritage of Madinah. The exhibits start with the Prophet’s life and end with the Saudi era.

Taher said: “The museum carries out specialized research in Madinah’s architectural heritage. It contains a library of relevant books, research and magazines, all of which are accessible to researchers.”

He said that the museum has issued more than 44 books and publications on Madinah’s architecture.

Taher explained that when preparing the museum’s narrative, it was necessary to reconcile temporal and spatial contexts so they created an added moral and intellectual value for the visitor.

He added: “There are around 2,000 artifacts in the museum’s exhibition halls. These include antiquities, extremely accurate models, handicrafts, manuscripts, documents, correspondence, old publications, postage stamps, photographs and artworks.”

One of the museum’s most valuable exhibits is a large collection of rare pieces associated with important moments in the Prophet’s life and the history of Madinah. 

These include various parts of the Kaaba, rare coins used in Madinah during different eras, ancient pottery, Islamic manuscripts, jewelry and collectibles from the pre-Islamic era.

Taher said that the museum has a professional team of guides who speak several languages, including English, Turkish, Urdu and Malay.