Event & Project Management During the Hajj Season

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 10
Words: 2851
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD

Specific aims and objectives

This research proposal seeks to propose and evaluate the role of the project management specialists in the event management of the pilgrimage to Mecca to help in delivering Hajj both successfully and safely. The objective is to show that, in the case of project managers specialists are employed to manage the Hajj event, the accidents and life losses associated with the event can reduce substantially.

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Problem statement

Apart from the stampede, which results in the death of Muslim people during a pilgrimage to Mecca, the probability of spreading infectious diseases across the globe escalates. Among the many cited infections includes the “Hajji cough” (Coleman & Eade 2005, p.25: Gitlitz & Kay 2006, p.11). The problem associated with this event is that due to the large numbers of people participating in it, the management of the Hajj entangles one of the sophisticated tasks. The main questions include:

  • How can one manage such large crowds appropriately to reduce the risks of death associated with stampedes?
  • How can deployment of project management knowledge help in the reduction of risks of infections such as ‘Hajji Cough’ associated with overcrowding?

The significance of these questions is that, if project management is effective in managing events cutely, then it should result in a reduction of the risks of stampedes and contraction of infections during Hajj. To build a theoretical conceptual framework, this research utilizes introspection of the existing body of literature to determine the empirical risks associated with the Hajj. The findings of this research are significant in academics since the success of the application of project management in the management of Hajj may also prompt deployment of the same concepts in other events involving large crowds of people such as the Olympic Games to help reduce similar challenges.

Positioning of the research

One of the significant ways of helping to deal with the challenges of large crowds is to put in place strategies to ensure that such crowds are hardly confined. However, this is rather theoretical than practical since large crowds are virtually impossible to hinder their confinement due to their myriad of significances in people’s lives and beliefs. Hajj is one of such instances in which large crowds of people come together for religious significance. In this perspective, this research is immensely informed by various texts discussing the relevance of Hajj in the Muslim faith. Such texts include Rashid, Shafi, and Haworth et al (2008) who give numerical data on the number of deaths that have occurred during various Hajj events historically. Another important text is Helbing and Johansson (2007) which seeks to differentiate the flow pattern of the Hajj crowd in comparison with other events that draw a large number of crowds such as the Olympics. Various texts that discuss mechanisms of enhancing identification of pilgrims such as Graafstra (2006), Sterling 2004 and Yamin (2008) are crucial in this research proposal. However, there exists a gap both theoretically and practically in the role that project managers may play in reducing risks associated with the Hajji event.

Research design and methodology

The subject matter of research is the role of project managers in the mitigation of risks associated with pilgrimage. In this research proposal, the term pilgrimage refers to “a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance; typically to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith” (Gitlitz & Kay 2006, p.11). The particular focus is on Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. This research is designed to take a theoretical framework. Consequently, the methodology deployed to garner data for the study is making use of both research papers and books on the roles of project management in reducing large events risks. The rationale of making use of secondary data for this research rests on the idea that the researcher is a non-Muslim and hence administration of various methods of garnering primary data such as interviews and questionnaires are likely to suffer drawbacks.

Discussion of the timeline for conducting the research

The research is principally dependent on secondary data acquired from the library. Therefore, most of the time is utilized in perusing through various Muslim literature materials and finding out the shreds of evidence and empirical data on the numbers of people injured and or killed during various Hajj events annually.


One of Muslims’ duties, as is described in the fifth pillar of Islam, is to go on Hajj at least once during their lifetime. This event accrues every year in Mecca city because of God’s house built by Prophet Ibrahim. The Saudis are proud of this honor granted to them by God (Coleman & Eade 2005, p.25). They prepare each year to organize this event and spend a lot of effort and money to serve the pilgrims until they finish their Hajj and return to their home countries safely. Saudi Arabia provides great services to help the pilgrims to perform this ritual. This is evident based on the large projects completed in the recent past in Mecca. Al Jamarat area project was one of the great projects (where pilgrims were required to through stones) in a multi-story building which is considered a state of an art project designed and constructed by the Saudi government to solve every year’s crowds accidents’ in this area. Saudi Arabia formed a committee made up of several departments and ministries. This is the Central Hajj Committee supervised by the king’s administration. However, some simple challenges and accidents take place every season (Gitlitz & Kay 2006, p.11). They can go through mitigation if the government considered employing specialist project managers teams working proficiently.

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Literature review

Cute management of Hajj pilgrimage is important in comparison with other crowded gathering events such as India (Kumbh Mela) or comparison with western countries’ crowded events such as Olympic events scheduled in Britain in 2012. The pattern of movement of the Hajj crowded has higher possibilities of resulting in stampede especially during the stoning of the devil ritual. During Hajj, normally a rapid transition of crowd movement from laminar flow to turbulent flow takes place. This changeover is “responsible for sudden eruptions of pressure release comparable to earthquakes, which cause sudden displacements and the falling and trampling of people” (Helbing & Johansson 2007, p.1). Jet travel facilitates the accessibility of Mecca and hence the Hajj by the pilgrims originating from across the globe. This makes Hajj enormously overcrowded. Hajj qualifies as a project since it is constrained by time, and requires the allocation of resources, which are normally scarce (Foster-Walker 2003, p.167). Consequently, the event managers who can be employed by the government of Saudi Arabia to oversee the whole activity can extend the concepts of project management in its management. Deploying these concepts can incredibly help in mitigating the risks associated with the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. For instance, according to Rashid, Shafi, and Haworth et al (2008), on 2nd July 1990, “a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma’aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina, Saudi Arabia, and Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims” (p.572). In 1994, some 270 pilgrims died following a stampede during the devil stoning ritual. In 1998, this number reduced to 118 but about 180 pilgrims were injured (Sarwar 1998, p.78). In 2001 and 2003, thirty-five and fourteen pilgrims were skilled during the devil stoning ritual consecutively (Al-Harthi & Al Harbi 2001, p.523: Al Ghamdi, Akbar & Qari et al 2003, p.1073). While, over these years, the number of pilgrims who died because of the stampede was reducing, in 2004, things turned around, and 251 died while 244 pilgrims were injured. An increasing trend in the number of deaths due to stampedes was also observed in 2006. Rashid, Shafi, and Ramyorth et al make it clear when they reckon that “a stampede during the ritual ramy al-Jaramarat on the last day of the Hajj in Mina killed at least 346 pilgrims and injured at least 289 more” (2008, p.571). To help curtail this number of deaths associated with stampedes, project management concepts are critical in ensuring that people are provided access to requisite places at the right time to avoid overcrowding at the bridges such as Jamarat bridge and hence the stampede.

Diseases also pose a risk to the pilgrims during the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca (Seraj 2004, p.407). This fear is acerbated by the fact that “if an outbreak were to occur on the road to Mecca, pilgrims could exacerbate the problem when they returned home and passed their infection on to others” (Shafi, Booty, & Haworth et al 2008, p.27). However, this was a major problem in the past. For instance, the Saudi Arabia government responded swiftly to the case of meningitis following the international outbreak in the 1987 Hajj (Shafi, Booty, & Haworth et al 2008, p.29). From this perspective, Rashid, Shafi, and Haworth et al (2008) reckon, “historical records document outbreaks of plague and cholera involving a large number of pilgrims when quarantine was the prime means of control” (p.569). For this reason, the government of Saudi Arabia deploys various programs that are updated each year to ensure that the probabilities of spreading infectious diseases are curtailed. Amid this, endeavor, Shafi, Booty, and Haworth et al (2008) argue, “the inevitable overcrowding in a confined area of such large numbers increases the risk of respiratory infections” (p.27). ‘Hajj cough’ is perhaps the best example of such an infection. A wide number of Bactria and virus causes it.

An increasingly growing body of literature has emerged seeking to propose various mechanisms that are employable to help in mitigating the risks related to Hajj. Some studies have shown that new tracking devices such as a bracelet with a microchip can be useful to avoid the risk or mitigate the risk. They aid in garnering “all information about the pilgrims’ movements and locations, health records in case of hospital emergency, lost children’s and old or deaf or blinds pilgrims” (Graafstra 2006, p.67: Sterling 2004, Para. 3). Additionally, RFID tags as one of the identification sensors can also aid in tracking the health information and movements of the pilgrims (Graafstra 2006, p.67). On the other hand, according to Yamin (2008), “various types of scanners such as palm, fingers, eye-lid, retina and face scanners can also be used to correctly identify individuals who are lost or dead in some unfortunate circumstances” (p.1). Given that Hajji season entangles one of the world’s major events in which a high number of loss of people has been historically recorded due to stampedes, fire, diseases, and even from collapsing buildings, technological identification devices comes hardy as an incredible relief in the management of large crowds of people.

Verychips, which are made from glass and can be implanted under human body parts skin (Yamin 2008, p.2). Nevertheless, although food and drug administration of the U.S. authenticates implantations of Verychips, cultural and social reasons rule out their implantation among Muslim Hajj pilgrims. The alternative approach of using Verychips to manage Muslim Hajj pilgrims is to “put in an arm or wrist an ordinary RFID tag, carrying a code to the pilgrim record in the backend database hence linking it to a sensor network and hence providing a mechanism for information retrieval” (Yamin 2006, p.11). This way, technological identification devices become useful in the provision of essential information on pilgrims’ medical data to the various state’s hired paramedics dedicated to handling health problem cases on the pilgrims during the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. They also provide mechanisms of managing and directing people with different languages and races, cultural background on Hajj. The need to identify people appropriately on an individual basis is essentially crucial in the mitigation of risks associated with the security issue. This is critical after considering what is going on around the region such as Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain. These devices are incredibly useful, particularly where the fire caused deaths to take place and a need to identify the badly mutilated bodies arises. Other studies such as Suter (2010) propose other ways of identification of badly mutilated bodies including DNA testing (p.328). Unfortunately, “DNA testing can only be administered amongst the consented pilgrims due to privacy and confidentiality concerns” (Yamin 2008, p.2). Consequently, scanning devices remain widely effective and undisputable mechanisms of identification of people whether they are alive or dead.

Role of specialists of Project management in Events management in delivering Hajj successfully and safely in the holy city of Mecca

Substantive knowledge of events management is critical in facilitating cute management of Hajj and in making sure that it is safe and successful. Specifically, event management refers to the “application of project management to the creation and development of festivals, events, and conferences” (Ramsborg et al, 2008, p.12). In case the holy city of Mecca employs specialists in project management to aid in organizing Hajj events, an immense stride would be towards ensuring the instigation of the risks encountered during the season. This is because, the event manager would facilitate in studying the various intricacies of various brands (Catherwood & Van Kirk, 1992, p.11), point out the needs of the target persons (the pilgrims), and plan various logistics to ensure that the needs are satisfied appropriately.

The cause of stampedes is akin to the growing number of the Muslim population that attends the event due to the modern enhancement of human transport. A specialist in project management would ideally cope with this challenge by making forecasts of the growth patterns of the population likely to attend the event in the future (Bowdin et al 2001, p.57). Armed with this information, appropriate social amenities and facilities can in turn suit such needs. Saudi government built many structures to occupy pilgrims during the Hajj season until they live. Such structures include airports, trains, ports, hotels, expansions projects on holy areas such as Aljamrat in Muna (where the pilgrims through stone to devil place), Arfat, Muzdalifah. However, during Hajj Season, especially with the number of pilgrims from western countries climbing over the last decade, new demands are in place, as these facilities remain scarce. In the preliminary stages of event management preparations, the event manager considers aspects such as “Scheduling, Site design, Technical design, Health & Safety, First Aid Services, Environmental and ecological management, and Risk management” (Ramsborg et al 2008, p.33). As discussed in the literature review, many of the risks associated with Hajj are the dangers of the stampede and infectious diseases. Since scheduling is a critical component of project management and hence event management, in case Mecca employs a specialist in project management, risks of stampedes may get critically reduced in that through proper scheduling human traffic flow can be plausibly managed (Goldblatt 2002, p.102: Tarlow 2002, p.45). The Health and safety of all in attendance is also another essential area of emphasis in the discipline of event management. Through making cute use of technological devices to help in linking the individual health concerns to the database containing the health information of all pilgrims in attendance, event manager specialists can gigantically facilitate and reduce risks of infection through ensuring quick response to any registered case of health risk among all pilgrims in a rapid manner.


The research proposal finds out that many of the challenges associated with crowds attending the Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia can be mitigated in case the Saudi Arabia government considers employing project managers as events Managers of the Hajji event. Amore interesting finding is that many technological devices proposed for deployment to aid in the identification of the dead or injured pilgrims can form one of the incredible tools for project managers to utilize in delivering strategies to curtail the occurrence of such encounters in the future. This comes in handy in suggesting that employing project managers to manage the Hajj event may undoubtedly aid in delivering Hajj both safely and successfully.

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The fifth pillar of Islam requires Muslims to attend Hajj at least once in their life if they can do so. The pilgrimage of Muslims is at the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. During this event, cases of deaths and injuries to the pilgrims are evident throughout the history of the Muslim faith. Such cases relate more commonly to stampedes, diseases, and fires. With the improvement of the transport (availability of jet transport), the number of Muslims attending the event annually has been on the rise. This means that the risks associated with the event are also on the rise. Amid, the Saudi Arabian government to help mitigate such risks, the research proposal recommends that the holy city of Mecca deserves to employ specialists as Project managers in Events management for the Hajj season to deliver Hajj successfully and safely. The proposal places this proposition since project managers specialists are well acquitted with concepts of scheduling and health and safety among other areas, which may incredibly aid in reducing the causes of injuries and deaths among pilgrims especially when more pilgrims would be expected to attend the event in future, as the world continues to get smaller.


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