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Tent city of Mina: the paragon of innovation
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-23 08:23

 Tent city of Mina: the paragon of innovation

An artistic rendering of tent city of Mina

Saudi Arabia will display the tent city of Mina at the Urban Best Practices Area for the first time as a testament to one of the world's most innovative and life-improving urban development experiments in the history of World Expos.

Mina, a city located on the pilgrimage route from Makkah to nearby Mount Arafat, is known for its sophisticated urban planning, facilities and world-class infrastructure.

It is one of 55 city projects that have been selected from 226 nominations from around the world for exhibition on the 15-hectare zone, where, for the first time in the event's history, cities are invited to show off cutting-edge architecture and design concepts.

Judges picked the tent city by taking into consideration the kingdom's efforts to provide modern services to about three million pilgrims who spend four days in Mina during the Hajj pilgrimage every year.

The country has spent billions of dollars in developing the desert valley of Mina into a modern city, which is home to around 40,000 durable fireproof tents with cooling systems and state-of-the-art communication facilities that include flyovers and tunnels, and water and electricity systems.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the honor of displaying this impressive and unrivaled urban experience," the country's expo team said. The country hopes to have an effect, both regionally and globally, on communities in similar situations approach to urban development.

Plans are to showcase Mina's most prominent features in six zones.

The first zone, allocated for "city and people", will introduce visitors to the largest tent city on earth, innovatively planned and managed in order to cater to the needs of almost three million people in an area no greater than four sq km. A film will be shown at the second zone, which tells the story of pilgrimage to Makkah.

The third zone will focus on the accommodation infrastructure provided by the Saudi government for pilgrims. The progress achieved in the tent industry so as to provide shelter that is both fire resistant and provides protection from the harsh desert environment as been momentous for locals. The cutting-edge fabric used for the tents has a lifespan of approximately 50 years.

"It is inflammable, configurable, wind resistant, non-toxic, and sun-screening that allows only 10 percent of sunlight to penetrate," the expo team said. With its design balancing nicely between traditional and modern, and maintenance easy, they offer the perfect solution to desert living.

The newly designed Jamarat Bridge, which can manage an influx of more than 500,000 pilgrims per hour, will be exhibited at the fourth zone. The new design was based on research about the dynamics of crowd pressure conducted through a successful cooperation of international and Saudi scientists.

The fifth zone will exhibit solutions for health and environmental issues associated with the presence of more than 3 million pilgrims staying for a short time in a very limited space.

The sixth and final zone will exhibit the future projects planned by the Saudi government for the annual visitors to Makkah. For instance, the express train project which will transport five million pilgrims in less than eight hours across five parallel rails is currently under construction by the Saudi-Chinese consortium at a value exceeding $2 billion.

Also, the projects will utilize the foothills as accommodation for Hajj pilgrims. This will increase the absorption capacity of the tents city of Mina by more one million people.

The construction of the tents pavilion is currently underway and is almost half-completion. It is scheduled to be ready for operation by the end of 2009.

(China Daily 09/23/2009 page8)