per statistics, the number of people making pilgrimages to Mecca each year is forecast to rise to 13.8 million by 2019, says John Podaras, director Middle East & North Africa for Christie + Co. Fuelling this rapid growth is the steady rise in the number of Muslims worldwide – forecast to grow by 35% to 2.2 billion in 2030.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has launched numerous multi-billion projects in recent years to prevent overcrowding during Hajj. Among the developments is the expansion of Jamarat Bridge in Mecca in 2008; the Mecca Metro that links Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah with Mecca. The first phase opened in 2010, and authorities say the automated metro will carry up to 80,000 passengers an hour during Hajj this year. Mecca is also set to benefit from the US$11.9bn Haramain High-Speed Railway project, which will link the holy city and Medina to Jeddah, an entry point for many pilgrims, to relieve road congestion.