Historical holy sites app wins Hajj and Umrah challenge

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JEDDAH: An app introducing pilgrims to monuments at holy sites on Wednesday night won a Hajj and Umrah challenge, which was launched earlier this week to bring creativity and technology to the pilgrim experience.

The challenge was part of an international Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition titled “Transformation to Innovation” held in Jeddah and organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with the Doyof Al-Rahman (Guests of Allah) program.

The results of the competition were announced by Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, on the first day of the conference.

Saudi entrepreneurs were invited to come up with creative solutions over three days in six areas to create a better pilgrimage experience: crowd and waste management, transportation, catering, health and housing.

More than 1,500 people signed up for the challenge. A ministerial jury reduced the number of entries from 40 to 13, with 10 ideas advancing to the final stage, and a prize of SR150,000 ($40,000) was offered.

There were three challenge winners and the top 10 entrants were honored. The first three projects won SR50,000, SR30,000 and SR20,000.

The winning app came from Maalem Team, maalem meaning landmark. It introduces pilgrims to the landmarks of holy places. People get a notification when they pass by and get an audio commentary about it.

Maalem Team Leader Affaf Al-Hajjaji, Quality Control Manager at Makkah Technical College, said, “A big thank you to the team who worked with me remotely for the past three days. They have proven that as long as there is an urge to work, nothing can stop you.

HIGHLIGHT

A ministerial jury reduced the number of entries from 40 to 13, with 10 ideas advancing to the final stage, and a prize of SR150,000 ($40,000) was offered. There were three challenge winners and the top 10 entrants were honored. The first three projects won SR50,000, SR30,000 and SR20,000.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the ministry would adopt the top five winning ideas and involve them in business accelerators to turn the projects into reality.

The second place project focused on serving disabled pilgrims and the third place project on water distribution.

The third day of the conference also had three talks.

One concerned the financing needs of companies operating in the Hajj and Umrah sector. The second was about managing innovation in Hajj and Umrah, and the third was about smart transport for pilgrims.

They were presented by experts and scholars from the Hajj and Umrah sector.

There was also a special session focusing on organizations serving national pilgrims. This session was introduced by Dr. Saed Al-Jehani, Chairman of the Coordinating Council of National Pilgrims’ Institutions and Companies.

The council’s mission is to coordinate the efforts of institutions and businesses for the domestic pilgrim market. Al-Jehani said the council includes 185 companies working to generate more creative solutions for the Hajj and Umrah experience.

“We yearn for a better reality, and we should expect the future of Hajj and Umrah to be full of innovative solutions,” he told the conference. “At the council, we will be busy providing innovative solutions over the coming Hajj seasons and will focus on areas such as accommodation, transport, catering, knowledge content, administrative and health affairs and services.”

The accompanying exhibition saw the participation of government and private sector bodies showcasing products, programs and projects designed to provide pilgrims with a better experience.

The booth of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques was among the most interesting as it offered people the opportunity to experience an immersive virtual reality tour of the Kaaba and the Black Stone.

A VR headset allowed people to see the Kaaba, hear the adhan (call to prayer) and even feel the essence of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.


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