Digital Insights: Hajj and KSA’s journey to a smarter Hajj experience

Hajj has quickly reached trending status on Twitter. The famous annual pilgrimage has always been a big topic, both off and online. With what will most likely be close to 2 million pilgrims this year, Hajj continues to be a huge topic in the Arab and Muslim world.

To see how things are going, Meltwater, an online news and social media monitoring company, has analyzed the level of engagement around Hajj online in the coming days to it.

Between 1-19 of August, Meltwater monitored the keywords “Hajj” and “حج” to learn how pre-Hajj looked like online.

In the first 19 days of August, the pilgrimage was already a big topic, with over 275K social media conversations.


Two of the most talked about related topics were KSA’s annual Hajj Security Forces review ceremony and a security guard who gave up his shoes for an elderly woman at the Grand Mosque.

The annual Hajj Security Forces review ceremony took place right before the Hajj season, where Saudi security forces simulate responses to a variety of security scenarios. The topic gained over 5K mentions in August.


Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz was also in attendance and was mentioned over 2.5K times on social media in relation to the ceremony/parade and Hajj.

As an important religious event that focuses on the spiritual wellbeing and being better people, messages of treating others kindly are often shared. This year, a security guard at the Grand Mosque shared the message through action.

The security guard was filmed passing by a supposedly elderly woman who was wearing what looks to be paper and giving her his shoes.

Top Languages on Social Media

Online, the top language used to talk about Hajj was Arabic with 73%. English came in second with 21%, with Indonesian at 2%. According to Indonesian Consul General Mohamad Hery Saripudin in 2017, Indonesia sent the highest number of foreign pilgrims last year. There were over 221K Indonesians in attendance last year.

Saudi Arabia continues to have mentioned Hajj the most on social media, holding 31% of mentions.


Creating a “smarter” and more efficient Hajj experience

According to CNN, the Hajj pilgrimage is the 2nd biggest major religious gathering, behind Kurbh Mela in India (which happens every 12 years). They also state that around 80+ nationalities can be found at Mecca during the annual Hajj season.

This makes it a massive undertaking for the Saudi Arabian government, one that they must take very seriously. With a new plan to modernize the country and target religious tourism as a major source of revenue, the Hajj has a major part to play.

Recently we saw Saudi Arabia’s latest attempt at making the pilgrimage “smarter” with technology through their Hajj Hackathon. Hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, the 36-hour hackathon was just another step forward in modernizing and easing the journey.

According to Meltwater, the event gained over 52.3K mentions on social media during the event.

For years now, the Saudi Arabian government has worked hard to avoid previous disasters from happening again, and preventing new ones.

Recently, new hotels and malls near Mecca and Medina have been established for those that want to be more comfortable during their pilgrimage. The recent upgrade to the Medina airport has also allowed it to accept more faithful pilgrims.

There is also the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah metro which journeys between the holy sites in Arafat and Mina, which has relieved some of the congestion.

Lastly, the new high-speed railway linking Mecca and Medina. The high-speed train, as fast as Japan’s famous bullet trains, was expected to open this year but was delayed. The train was aimed at providing support this year before apparently offering daily service next year.

There is no word yet if this year’s Hackathon winners’ app will be in play.

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