Wednesday, February 15

Umrah 2012, Day Three: Ban Them All

In some ways the increase of numbers I mentioned yesterday indicate a transference of the "struggle" of pilgrimage from the journey to the destination, and that's probably true whether you believe that such a struggle is an inherent part of the whole thing (incidentally I don't believe in walking on coals myself). That said I do think that there are ways to make the whole thing a little easier without reducing the actual total number (and no, none as extreme as what I suggested last time).

First up, tour groups need to be regulated, and groups larger than ten should be discouraged, particularly if they're uniform in terms of race and gender (believe me, the gangs of women are much scarier than the male equivalent). This also means getting rid of the matching luggage, hand bags, hijabs and badges that you see everywhere in the Haram now. Part of the problem isn't the numbers themselves, but the block manner in which these groups move. It's inefficient and disruptive. Instead pilgrims should be taught how to independently make the most of their time here.

Secondly, we should also ban all books, leaflets, phones and cameras inside the mosque. This is a little extreme, but anything that distracts you from taking care of other people is a bad thing in my opinion and all these things do that. They're even worse than the Blackberry zombies you meet on the Tube.

The hatim and black stone areas should be regulated a little too, either by enforcing a real queue or better still implementing some kind of voucher/timeslot system. I don't think this would be impossible to do, it would just require education and discipline. Okay, maybe it is impossible after all.

The last one might be a little controversial, but I genuinely believe it would be beneficial to have a season where anyone over the age of 65 or under the age of 5 or who needs a wheelchair are discouraged from coming. Yes, that sounds wrong and is probably totally unenforceable but as a practical exercise it would allow many more to enjoy facilities on offer over the course of the year, and the only downside is that overzealous parents won't be able to put up those pictures of their disinterested three year old in an ihram. Bless.

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