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This paper focuses on the exploration of the artifact known as Mina, the City of Tents. Not so long ago, this place has received global attention due to the grown armed conflict in Syria that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees leaving the country and travelling to other countries in search of shelters, temporary, and permanent homes. The problem occurred when the Saudi Arabian government that has a massive and empty city of tents on the territory of the country refused to accept as many refugees as it was expected by the European community.
The Saudi Arabian Tent City is situated in the town called Mina in Makkah Province nearby the city of Mecca (O’Reilly, O’Reilly and Habegger 174). Mina is a rather small city. It is seated in a valley that is about eight kilometers away from Mecca, the Holy City and one of the main destinations for the pilgrims during the celebration of Hajj. The Tent City covers the whole territory of the valley which is as large as twenty square kilometers. The valley is situated three hundred meters above the sea level; its length is three kilometers, and it is one and a half kilometers wide (Shehata and Koshak 2).
The total number of tents in Mina is over a hundred thousand. These temporary homes were specifically designed, built, and places in the valley of Mina at the beginning of the 1990s for the pilgrims who travel during Hajj. This event has a strong religious and spiritual character. The Islamic religion demands that every adult Muslim must take the pilgrimage and travel to the Holy City of Mecca at least once during the course of their life.
Description of the Tent City
Such trip could be rather costly and extremely exhausting as it requires the pilgrims to pay for their accommodations or carry their own camping supplies such as tents, food. In order to help the travelers during their annual journey, the City of Tents was created in the flatlands of Mina where the pilgrims can stay during their trip enjoying a decent level of comfort and safety.
The Tent City is rather large and divided into sections. For the convenience of the pilgrims, it is equipped with multiple kitchens where the food is made and distributed throughout the sections comprising many tents (Bryant 225). Each tent is as large as 8 by 8 meters and has an air conditioner installed. Initially, the tents were made of cotton; however, the material had to be replaced after the tragic incident of 1997 when a massive fire destroyed the camp (Brabazon 204). The contemporary tents of Mina are constructed with a help of fireproof PTFE covered fiberglass fabric. The total cost of its construction is estimated as high as four million Saudi Riyals.
It took the Saudi Arabian government over a decade to adjust and rebuilt the City of Tents in order to achieve the highest levels of safety and convenience. During the first years of its existence, the accidents (such as stampedes or fires) were quite common due to the planning and administration errors aggravated by the presence of an extremely large number of dwellers (Brabazon 204). For instance, a massive stampede occurred in 2004, when too many pilgrims headed to the three pillars (the representation of the devil) for the stoning ritual through the Jamarat overpass and, as a result, over 250 people died (O’Reilly, O’Reilly and Habegger 174). Another accident of the same kind occurred in 2015 and resulted in over two thousand victims.
Meaning of the Tent City
Mina tents have a highly important function during the time of Hajj. The camp is capable of hosting up to three million pilgrims enabling many more individuals to accomplish the difficult task of travelling to Mecca as pilgrims. It is worth noticing that the major part of Hajj involves walking and not using any other modes of transportation, thus the journey can be rather exhausting physically taking in considerations the hot climate of Saudi Arabia and the long distance people have to travel.
Even though the City of Tents is a permanent urban environment, it is only in use for five to six days a year as Hajj traditionally occurs between the 8th and the 13th of February on the annual basis (Brabazon 204). The rest of the time the camp is empty. This detail became the focus of a recent criticism of the Saudi Arabian government by the European community that claimed that the city of Mina was capable of accepting several millions of Syrian refugees displaced by the civil war in their country. The Saudi government insisted that the camp remains used solely for hosting the pilgrims of Hajj. The Europeans mentioned the Islamic concept known as Ummah that obliges Muslims to help one another in the times of crises. However, the Saudi authorities refused to disrupt one of the world’s biggest religious mass events and place the refugee families in the camp.
Brabazon, Tara. City Imaging: Regeneration, Renewal and Decay. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer Science and Business Media, 2013. Print.
Bryant, Raymond L. The International Handbook of Political Ecology. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub. Ltd., 2015. Print.
O’Reilly, James, Sean O’Reilly, and Larry Habegger. The Best Travel Writing 2005. San Francisco, Calif.: Travelers’ Tales, 2005. Print.
Shehata, Ahmed M. and Nabeel A. Koshak. Using 3D GIS to Assess Environmental Hazards in Built Environments (A Case Study: Mina). n.d.