Modernising Hajj: Saudi Arabia introduces free nap pods for pilgrims

Saudi Arabia has planned to introduce Japan-inspired ‘capsule pods’ in the Holy city of Makkah in the coming days as Hajj, the annual pilgrimage performed by Muslims is underway, PTI reported. The nap pods are free and is Saudi Arabia’s step to try to modernise the centuries old pilgrimage. The monarchy has further introduced on-the-spot translation and medical care apps.

A Saudi charity, the Haji and Mutamer Gift Charitable Association, offers between 18 and 24 capsule for pilgrims to nap in for free. The pod is fibreglass and three meters long, includes a a mattress, clean sheets, air conditioning and a large, well-lit mirror. The pods can be either kept horizontally or vertically, depending on space.

“We are always thinking about pilgrims and how to make them more comfortable during the rituals of hajj,” Amer, the head of the charity, told AFP.

The nap pods have been rolled out for pilgrims who cannot afford to rest in hotels while performing the pilgrimage and just need some quick shut-eye. The pods can be accessed for upto three hours and will be sterilised by workers after pilgrims use it.

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The pods have been imported from Japan and cost $1,114 (1,000 euros) each. “The idea already exists globally, in Japan for example, and in several cities across the world,” Amer said. “We believe it’s extremely well-suited for crowded places in our holy sites and in Mecca.”

A trial run of 12 pods earlier this year was, he said, a success. Amer estimates 60 people used each pod every day during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Since Islam is currently the world’s fastest-growing religion, according to the Pew research centre, it provides the Saudi authorities with monumental logistical challenges. The authorities are bringing a ‘smart hajj’ initiative to meet with its growing demands, in similarity to the kingdom’s recent modernisation drive.

Earlier, in a historic move to promote societal change and development in the country, Saudi Arabian women were legally allowed to drive from Sunday onwards, part of a royal decree that had been first issued by the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, popularly known as MBS.

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