The Hajj Pilgrimage Study
Analysing and processing the numbers involved in the annual Hajj pilgrimage is a massive challenge for any engineer. As density numbers near critical levels, according to a recent Jeddah-based graduate student’s research project, it is one that must continue to have top priority.
Graduate student Maher Saleh Abolkhour, is studying at one of the world’s top academic institutions, King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. In his recent project, he demonstrated the effectiveness of MassMotion pedestrian simulation software for the analysis of the massive crowd sizes predicted for the Hajj. The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory journey for physically and financially able Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their life.
The number of pilgrims continues to grow: the 2018 pilgrimage, on 19 to 24 August – is expected to attract up to 3 million people. The Saudi Vision 2030 plan anticipates this growing to 6 million pilgrims for the five-day festival by 2030, with a total of 30 million visiting for Umrah, the pilgrimage that can take place at any time of the year.
Significant investment, such as that in Jamarat Bridge, has mitigated the risks but catering for the ever-larger crowds predicted will continue to create new challenges.
Maher’s project focussed on the open spaces of Al-Masjid al-Haram (the Great Mosque). He had already identified by traditional visual means and density counts that crowd density was reaching critical level of 5/sq m. (with 2-4 considered as low risk and 6-10 as high risk.)
With MassMotion he modelled the large spaces around the Al-Masjid al-Haram and adhered to the pedestrian restrictions imposed. Iteration with MassMotion is quick, even when modelling crowds of this magnitude, allowing Maher to re-run the simulation and test the behaviour of the simulated agents for peaks and relative troughs in density.
With the current environment modelled, Maher ran a simulation and analysed the results. He then adjusted the environment by repositioning the gates, buildings and path ways to create two alternative models. Then, once analysed, he produced detailed analysis charts and flow density renders to clearly illustrate the results.
Zeena Farook, University Liaison at Oasys, oversees the Unipac programme to provide free software access to students said: “It’s good to see our claims for the scalability of MassMotion being put to the test – and passing. We hope that Maher, and the insight he has provided, will prove useful.”