Mina, City of Tents

Mina is a small town located inside a low valley in the province of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia, about 8 km east of the holy city of Mecca. Inside the 20 sq km valley, tents cover every open space, neatly arranged, row after row, as far as the eye can see. It is in these tents that Haj pilgrims stay overnight during the five days of each Haj season. The rest of the year Meena remains quite deserted.

Mina has over 100,000 air-conditioned tents providing temporary accommodation to 3 million pilgrims. The tents measure 8 meters by 8 meters and are constructed from fiberglass coated with Teflon to ensure high resistance to fire. Originally the pilgrims brought their own tents which they erected in the flat plains of Mina. After the Hajj is over, the tent will be dismantled, everything will be packed and taken back. Then in the 1990s, the Saudi government set up permanent cotton tents, relieving pilgrims from the burden of carrying their own camping equipment. But after a massive fire in the Tent City that killed around 350 pilgrims in 1997, the current permanent fire-retardant city was created.

The tents are divided into several camps, each with its own outer wall, and connected to the other camps by way. Each campsite is equipped with a kitchen, bathroom and bathing facilities. Each tent is color-coded and numbered by country, and all pilgrims must have a badge with their color and number in case they are lost.

Over the past two years, the city has undergone massive changes as the government has invested billions of riyals in a number of infrastructural projects to ease the arduous and physically demanding rituals of the annual pilgrimage. An extensive fire protection network involving an alarm system involving heat-sensitive water sprinklers was implemented to prevent a repeat of the 1997 tragedy.

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