Hajj 2018: Grasping the data behind the Islamic pilgrimage

Hajia Sani, Makkah-Saudi Arabia


Muslims from around the world have begun winding down activities that marked the 2018 Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

This year’s Hajj has been singularly unique, with several operational and organisational innovations and improvements.

In particular, Hajj 2018 witnessed the adoption and use of new information and communication technologies to direct and pilot one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.

Huge data was generated and communicated before and during the pilgrimage, making the 2018 Hajj one of the most digitally synchronised processes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Key figures published by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, GASTAT, indicate a humongous volume of data behind the successful hosting of this year’s pilgrimage.

Announcing the Hajj 1439 Hijri (2018) statistics, the agency said the total number of international and domestic pilgrims was 2,371,675, of which 1,758,722 pilgrims came from outside Saudi Arabia, while 612,953 came from inside the Kingdom and comprised both citizens and residents.

Official Data of Hajj 2018:

Total Pilgrims – 2,371,675

Males – 1,327,127

Females – 1,044,548

Pilgrims within Saudi – 612,953

Pilgrims from outside – 1,758,722

Total Foreign Pilgrims by mode of entry:

By Sea – 16,163.

By Land – 85,623

By Air – 1,656,936

Pilgrims by Regional Distribution:

Arabian Nations: 395,410 = 22.5%

European Nations: 88,601 = 5.0℅

Gulf Nations: 34,140 = 1.9%

Non Arab-Africa: 166,083 = 9.5%

Non Arab-Asia: 1,049,496 = 59.7%

North & South America: 24,992 = 1.4℅

Total Workforce to service pilgrims: 287,300

Comparative data:

Period:                       1438H (2017) and 1439H (2018)

Internal pilgrims:           600,108               612,953

External pilgrims:          1,752,014            1,758,722

Total pilgrims:                2,352,122            2,371,675

– 2,371,659 pilgrims took part in the 2018 Hajj, compared to 2,352,122 in 2017, 1.86 million in 2016 and just 24,000 in 1941, when Saudi Government officially took over the hosting of the annual pilgrimage.

– No fewer than 54 million pilgrims have attended the Hajj over the past 25 years.

– Every 60 minutes, an average of 107,000 pilgrims circle the Ka’aba, the black cube in the centre of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world must face when praying.

– At least 14,000 international and domestic flights conveyed pilgrims to the Kingdom, in addition to some 21,000 buses that transported them to Makkah from Jeddah and Madinah.

– Tens of thousands of security personnel, including some 18,000 civil defence employees, were deployed to safeguard pilgrims, with thousands of security cameras set up along the pilgrimage routes.

– Tens of thousands of air-conditioned tents were set up to accommodate pilgrims, as temperatures rose to 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit).

– 25 hospitals, 180 ambulances and more than 30,000 health practitioners were prepped to provide emergency services to pilgrims.

– 16,000 telecommunication towers were erected and 3,000 WiFi zones created.

– Eight million copies of the Holy Qur’an in multiple languages and other religious books, to be distributed to pilgrims.

– By the year 2030, Saudi Arabia hopes to host up to 30 million pilgrims annually, for both the Hajj pilgrimage and Umrah, which is performed at any time.

Data objective:

The objective is to provide accurate and comprehensive data on the number of pilgrims, mode and days of arrival, for the purposes of planning and preparing high quality care and services to pilgrims.

To achieve the goal, Hajj statistics centres were set up at all entrances into Makkah, alongside support centres in Jeddah, Madinah and Taif.

The official statistics and figures published highlight the efforts exerted by more than 45 governmental entities, including the health and medical services, public services, transportation sector services and communication services, responsible for servicing all the pilgrims.