The Hajj Terminal


The Hajj terminal has become a renowned fixture in the desert landscape of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Much like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, the Hajj terminal with its soaring tent-roofs has become a monument that stands for the nation in which it resides. A terminal that greets millions of pilgrims every year, it is a symbol of Islam and the Muslim duty of performing Hajj.

The tent design was created by Fulzar R. Khan in the 1980’s and is a structural masterpiece. “I look at each possibility individually in its own cultural context. I strive for structural simplicity. ‘The technical man mustn’t be lost in his own technology.’ It was with this philosophy that we approached the Hajj terminal,” has stated Khan, who believes the powerful roof form is evocative of Saudi Arabian architecture. “This tent does not copy tents of the past—it is a form for the future and here it caters for today’s needs.”

The design of the tent structure was tremendously dependent on specifications required to accommodate a large number of people with highly diversified needs in transit over a short period of time. This is evident in the structure and materials used. Each tent’s fabric roof is 46 Å~ 46 meters at its base, rising conically to a 5-meterdiameter support ring at the top. The base of each unit is 20 meters from the terminal floor with the fabric rising to 34 meters. The height of the tent structures promotes air circulation through the open tension ring. The white fabric reflects 75% of solar radiation and keeps air circulation underneath the tents in the mid 26.5°C (80°F) range, even with an outside temperature of 54.2°C (130°F).

It is also translucent and transmits some 7% of sunlight into the structure eliminating the need for artificial lighting. The challenge of catering to the large volume of people in the terminal at any onetime channelled the designers into creating two sections—one of air-conditioned buildings and the other, a vast waiting and support area. The outside area, which includes restaurants, shops, prayer areas, and washroom facilities, is present for the convenience of the Hajis, and represents the nomadic hospitality of shade, water, and food—a tradition of Saudi’s ancestral natives.

The Saudi government began planning the Hajj terminal in the early 1960’s. An immense project, it took several years before it was opened in May 1981. Today, the Hajj terminal has gotten a much-needed facelift and is ready for the new millennium and the influx of pilgrims it ushers in with it.

Working with a number of local companies, the Saudi government has begun renovations of the terminal complex. Ports Projects Management and Development Co. (PPMDC) is the company responsible for operations in the Hajj terminal in accordance to Saudi regulations and international standards, while the design of the refurbished terminal was design by Aéroportde Paris. With over 90 percent of their staff consisting of young, educated Saudis, PPMDC is striving towards the goal of Saudization by offering job opportunities to skilled locales.

It’s an exceptional terminal with state-of-the-art management systems and luxurious accommodations,

such as retail shops, food courts, restaurants, VIP lounges, a mosque, and hotel.

It is the terminal’s ability to quickly and systematically transform its functionality from a regular terminal that has both arrivals and departures throughout the year, to a terminal for only in-bound flights at the beginning of Hajj and then to only out-bound flights at the end of Hajj that makes this structure such a technically advanced anomaly.

The terminal is a complex design made to simplify and ease passenger flow, making the Hajj experience comfortable and safe for all the pilgrims. By employing integrated systems, such as the Baggage Handling System (BHS), the terminal is able to run smoothly and is in continuous flow. The Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) is another new system employed that allows multiple airline carriers to use the same equipment.

Visual Guidance Docking System (VGDS) is present to aid pilots in safely parking their aircrafts at the terminal. Other new features are there for the security and safety of pilgrims, including the implementation of high-tech security systems and the Critical Care Center for emergencies. Since Hajj brings multiple nationalities, the design of the new interior is color coded to aid them making the terminal not only efficient, but also visitor friendly.

The white tent canopy of the Hajj terminal complex is the world’s largest fabric structure enclosing the world’s largest covered space. Each of the two structures consists of five module sand measures 98 meters Å~ 209 meters. The two identical structures cover 42,4920 square meters. A powerful visual image, the Hajj terminal is the first impression the Dayouf Al-Rahman (Guests of the Merciful) receive upon their arrival into the Kingdom. It reflects the modernity and traditions that makeup this nation.

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