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September 25, 2010

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Mina's tents work just fine

SAUDI Arabia is showing that tents can be of great use when limited land space is available to house people.

At the World Expo's Urban Best Practices Area, the Tent City of Mina Pavilion showcases 18 life-sized tent models, with a standard diameter of 26 meters. The largest measures 7.2 meters in height.

A staff member at the pavilion said a large tent could house up to 40 people.

It is the first time that Saudi Arabia has showcased the Tent City of Mina in the history of the Expo, said Dr Abdulrahman Al-Shaikh, the pavilion's commissioner general.

The Tent City of Mina, about 7 kilometers south-east of Mecca, is where more than 3 million pilgrims from all over the world travel to and stay for three or four days during their journey to the holy city of Mecca.

Each Muslim is called upon to travel to Mecca once in his life, a religious ritual that has been going on for more than 1,000 years, said Abdulrahman.

Long ago, pilgrims erected tents for shelter during their religious journey, according to the pavilion's website.

But the random use of tents and unsafe cotton structures wasted space and also posed safety hazards, particularly from fires.

In the past 15 years, the government of Saudi Arabia has invested in Mina, developing it into a modern city built with durable and fireproof tents equipped with cooling systems, water, and electricity, Abdulrahman said.

No fire disasters have occurred in the past 15 years, he said.

Abdulrahman said about 2.5 million Muslims come to Mecca from outside Saudi Arabia each year.

Participants are trying to share their visions of "Better City, Better Life," the theme of the Shanghai World Expo.

The Mina case seeks to provide the world with one of the best examples in crystallizing a better urban environment for human life in one of the largest tent cities ever built, a statement from the pavilion's website said.

The Saudi Arabia Pavilion is among the most popular attractions.

Visitors normally have to queue for more than three hours to get inside, clearly drawn to the expansive and dynamic videos showing the country's people, cities, and landscapes all while being transported around the pavilion on a conveyer belt.

As of yesterday, the Saudi Pavilion has received nearly 3.3 million visits, according to its website.


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