More than 136,000 Indian Haj pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia this year will be benefited by several high-tech apps, including Google Maps, to facilitate hassle-free pilgrimage. According to the Indian Haj Mission, the idea is to use every available tool and gadget to keep pilgrims in our loop of communication.
"We will make use of every form of new-age technology, from Google Maps and smartphone applications, to Facebook, YouTube clips and text messages, to make the journey of our pilgrims as comfortable as possible," Indian Consul General BS Mubarak was quoted as saying by Arab News. "One of the major problems that Indian pilgrims encounter during Haj is losing their way and being unable to find their accommodation, especially in the tent city of Mina, which is where most of the rituals are conducted," Mubarak said.
An Internet-based, user-friendly smartphone application that is compatible with both Android and Apple operating systems has been launched to address this issue. Dubbed as the "Indian Haji Accommodation Locator", the application has a distinct icon reflecting the colours of the Indian flag.
"Once downloaded, all you have to do is click on the app's icon and enter any pilgrim's cover number or passport number and you will get comprehensive details about their accommodation, including building number, tent number or maktab number, plus an easy-to-follow satellite or a regular road map that will lead you to their location, whether in Makkah, Mina or Madinah," Mubarak said.
The consul general said every pilgrim coming from India is provided with a Saudi cellphone SIM card which they activate upon arrival. "We send short text messages to these numbers to keep our pilgrims informed about important and immediate developments," Mubarak said even though not everyone has a smartphone and has the wherewithal to download the application or understand its complexities.
Of the 136,020 pilgrims arriving in the Kingdom this year, 100,020 are coming through the Haj Committee of India, while the rest are being brought in by private tour operators.
The first Indian Haj flight will arrive in Madinah on August 27 from Kolkata, while the first flight in Jeddah will arrive on September 7 from Aurangabad in Maharashtra.