Officials supervised the entry of supply vehicles and refrigerators loaded with the products that were distributed in the holy sites of Mina, Arafa and Muzdalifah, “ensuring there was adequate stock to meet the requirements of the pilgrims,” according to a Saudi Press Agency statement.
At the same time, around 45 food trucks run by private operators have been allowed to trade there for the first time, following a directive by the deputy governor of Mecca to allow entrepreneurs to roam the area with mobile trade.
Only Saudi citizens are allowed to work in the trucks, which must carry standard health certificates.
Another source of sustenance this year has been the 2.3m ready-made “happy meals” supplied by the Hajj Ministry to around 15% of of pilgrims as part of its health and hygiene initiative.
This percentage is expected to increase over the next two years as the ministry negotiates further deals with food operators, including Saudi’s national airline.
“The door is open for all competent companies to invest in this big project. It is no secret that we are in talks with Saudi Airlines Catering to take part in this service. We want the pilgrims to enjoy as high-quality food as that offered to passengers on our national carrier,” Hajj minister Mohammed Salih Bentin told Arab News.
“From this year South Asian Hajj offices have started to distribute sterilised meals to 15% of the pilgrims. In almost two years’ time, all pilgrims will enjoy similar meals during their Hajj days.”
He claimed that the ministry’s initiative brings a number of benefits, including reducing fires in the holy places caused by pilgrims’ camp kitchens, cutting the risk of food poisoning and greatly lowering water use in camp kitchens.
Prepackaged meals also reduce waste generated by camp kitchens by up to 20%, with 765 tonnes of waste generated.