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.


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