13 February 2012

Helping Pilgrims:The Smart Way to Mecca

Helping Pilgrims:The Smart Way to Mecca (The Economist, 13 February 2012)

The holy city is also notoriously tricky to get around: each year more than 2m Muslims converge on it and often have a hard time finding their tents in the giant camps whose alleys are not well marked. "Some people get lost for days before being able to rejoin their group," says Habiburrahman Dastageeri, a 31-year-old German-Afghan, who has yet to go on his own haj, but has already struggled with the umrah, a less complex, and less crowded, pilgrimage to Mecca that can be performed at any time of the year.

The experience inspired the computer scientist to develop a smartphone app which helps hajjis to avoid stress so they can focus on their religious duties. The app, currently available only for iPhone, though an Android version is in the works, is called Amir, which means "guide" in Arabic (among other things). It offers a check-list to ensure the pilgrim is fully prepared before setting off to Saudi Arabia. It also includes interactive tutorials, for instance on what to do while walking seven times counter-clockwise around the Kabah, the Black Stone, or how properly to stone the Devil. Once they arrive, pilgrims can use Amir to check where they are and to locate their tent. On top of that, the app has a buildt-in emergency button so people in need can easily be located by an ambulance or the police.
Link:Helping Pilgrims:The Smart Way to Mecca