Planning for the Hajj: Political Power, Pragmatism, and Participatory GIS

The Hajj is an annual Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. This article describes the politics and planning involved in building a geographic information system (GIS) that can help in the planning of this massive event. Hajj involves 3 million people moving to multiple sites over a large region at different times. More than 20 agencies are involved in planning, preparing and running Hajj. Hajj is important to the Saudi government for religious, political and economic reasons, and the Saudi leaders have invested heavily in research and planning to solve problems associated with Hajj. One initiative to aid in collaborative planning is the development of a GIS. Developing the GIS proved problematic, however. Although there was political support for a GIS that contained complete data about every aspect of Hajj and the cities involved, such a database would be expensive and impractical to construct. A more pragmatic approach was to collect the most complete and useful data that could practically be obtained. Although the geospatial database building process is unfinished, the project experience thus far highlights the need for decision makers to be aware of the complex dynamics that political power discrepancies pose. Although there are times when exercising political power can help stimulate forces and optimize resources, there are also times when a power imbalance is counterproductive. Power can help gain allies and strengthen relationships, but power can also rupture these alliances and relationships. By being aware of the intricacies of power, decision makers can deal with them tactfully in order to reach the final goal.


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  • Accession Number: 01142591
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 28 2009 3:19PM