Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cell Phone Now a Precious Tool for Pilgrims

From Arab News

Cell Phone Now a Precious Tool for Pilgrims

Galal Fakkar, Arab News|

MINA, 21 December 2007 — Every year the main problem for pilgrims is getting lost in the holy sites. Many pilgrims coming for the first time to Haj are not familiar with the surrounding. If they get lost, it's difficult for them to get back to their camps. Lost pilgrims spend hours trying to find their way around. Cell phones have become a vital tool for these pilgrims.

"It has become easier for many pilgrims to get back to their tents if they get lost," said Abdullah Al-Zahrani, who works with a group that helps lost pilgrims. "Almost all pilgrims are carrying mobile phones either from their countries or new numbers from local service providers."

Zahrani said that most lost persons are children — there were only about 80 cases so far — while most of the rest are elderly.

Lost pilgrims tend to be the ones that take alternative routes during the walk through the enormous encampments in Mina filled with tents that all look alike. Pilgrims that cannot read signs are most likely to get lost; others simply get lost when they decide simply to wander about out of curiosity.

Mariam Hassani, an Algerian pilgrim, said that she went out to explore the area and buy some goods.

She got lost on her way back because she got confused about which Haj camp she was in since many of the tents looked alike. Fortunately she had a working mobile phone and she managed to call her Haj guide. Without the phone, she would have had to sit at a lost persons' center and wait for hours for the Haj guide to find her.

"Because of cell phones we have been able to direct lost pilgrims to their camps in less than half an hour," said Osama Al-Hateela, one of the hundreds of Saudi Boy Scouts that help pilgrims during Haj.

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