Mina, The City of Tents
Mina is a small city located inside a low lying valley in the province of Makkh, in western Saudi Arabia, about 8 km to the east of the Holy city of Mecca. Inside the 20 square km valley, tents cover every open space, as far as the eye can see, neatly arranged, row after row. It is in these tents Hajj pilgrims stay overnight during the five days of each Haj season. For the rest of the year, Mina remains pretty much deserted.
There are more than 100,000 air-conditioned tents in Mina providing temporary accommodation to 3 million pilgrims. The tents measure 8 meters by 8 meters and are constructed of fiberglass coated with Teflon in order to ensure high resistance to fire. Originally pilgrims brought their own tents which they would erect in the flat plains of Mina. After Hajj is over, the tents would be dismantled, everything packed and taken back. Then sometime in the 1990s, the Saudi government installed permanent cotton tents relieving pilgrims of the burden of having to carry their own camping equipment. But after a massive fire that swept through the tent city killing nearly 350 pilgrims in 1997, the current permanent fire-proof city was built.