Saudi Arabia: Behind the Scenes of the Hajj

This may be putting the horse before the cart since we must first have Ramadan before Hajj, but I am writing this post in specific response to a query received.

“My question is about Hajj, my boyfriend mentioned, and I’ve heard a couple of his friends mention, his father and how he works for a month or so every year during hajj (they told me the name for it, i think it starts with M). Because of his family name, his father gets paid by the government every year to work during hajj and then when his father dies he and his brother will be paid by the government to do the work, or something like this. They tried to explain it to me but I didn’t really understand the link between family names, the government, how much they get paid and what their role during hajj actually is.”

I asked one of my Saudi friend’s who grew up in Makkah about this question and he gave a detailed response.


What he is referring to is about Mootwaf which is a business for taking care of the pilgrimage. In the past this was a free trade and anyone could engage in it as a business.  About 70 years ago it was regulated by the government issuing a license to the businesses. Fifty years ago or so the government regulated the trade even further to stop the amount of demand for these licenses by stopping issuing new ones all together.  So licenses remained only in families and passed to the children. Now 30 years ago the government came up with the ingenuous idea of having even more regulations by having full control of how services are provided to pilgrimage, so the pooled groups of the licensees into government controlled companies and the licensees started receiving salaries for the work. Hence Hajj services has become a socialized government run service instead of the thriving competitive business it used to be. My grand father from my mother side was a mutwaf who built a huge business by providing great service to pilgrims. Now the business is run by the government through these companies and my cousins are paid salary for their work instead of competing for it.


This website also provides additional information about the services of the mootwaf for those who wish to learn more.


8 Responses

  1. Dear Ameerican Bedu…

    Thank you for a lovely nugget of information. This is exactly why i decided to follow your blog… wishing you a speedy recovery again.

  2. Even a tighter Regulation is welcome to control and eliminate hazards of Hepatitis at the Hajj. The abstract and web links below are there to educate pilgrims for taking ever more precautionary measures possible.

    Advice for those travellers attending a Hajj in Saudi Arabia

    Hepatitis B
    Saudi authorities provide licensed barbers for the rite of head-shaving. Pilgrims should consider using these barbers, or alternatively taking with them a disposable razor for this purpose. This will help protect against hepatitis B and other blood-borne infections
    Hazards of hepatitis at the Hajj

    While an increased risk of hepatitis is associated with travel, the risk of hepatitis associated with the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia has not been carefully quantified. Conditions unique to this gathering can pose the risk of both enteral and parenteral viral hepatitis. During this congregation, pilgrims stay in tents shared by 100 or more people often living on foods from street vendors and sharing common toilet facilities that can expose them to both hepatitis A and E. To mark the end of the festival, head shaving or trimming by fellow pilgrims or street barbers, who often re-use their razor may expose them to hepatitis B or C. Pilgrims are also at risk of cuts to the hands and feet while sacrificing cattle and walking barefooted, which may further increase the risk of parenteral viral hepatitis. Emerging diseases such as Alkhumra virus and Rift Valley fever, which may cause hepatitis, are also potentially important for the Hajj pilgrims. Improved health education to increase awareness about the risk of these diseases and appropriate immunisations, particularly hepatitis A and B vaccines, could play an important role.
    Hajj-associated risks

    Food Handlers
    Food handlers who return from Hajj with symptoms of diarrhoea/vomiting must not return to work. They must consult their doctor and arrange to provide a stool specimen for analysis. They must not return to work until the symptoms have gone, stools have returned to normal and then spent a further two days away from work.

  3. From talking with my muslim “friends” who have performed hajj, they had nothing but great things to say about the hajj arrangements and were highly complimentary of the saudi government. I reckon it is a big undertaking to make sure everything goes smooth for multitudes of millions of pilgrims each year.

    My hats-off to the saudis!

  4. @Quicksmiler – Thank you!

    @Honest Abe – It is an amazing fete when you think about it. Hajj is the largest congregation of people at one time for an extended period in the world. The Saudis really have the logistics of Hajj down to a fine art.

  5. You are pushing me to cry when I hear you talking the truth about my country while a lot of citizens never be thankful

  6. Salam
    I’m not sure if you are talking about “sadanah” who they defer from “mutawaf”.
    I think there are families who they are keeping the honor to serve Makkah visitors by distributing water and some food for them without payments, but the government are giving them praises.
    adding to that, these families protected “kaabah” and the visitors also.
    Some families are keeping doing that today.

  7. I think you mean Sadanah Malay who serve and protect Makkah visitors , the Tatweef was apart of that.

    I will confirm that later.
    Sorry I couldn’t do that now.

  8. @Saudi in LA – thank you for your comments. I’d appreciate any more details which you can add. In fact, I am working on another post which explains the number of workers at the Hajj and all the different types of jobs that are performed to ensure a smooth and transparent Hajj.

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