Skip to main content

Robots to help Muslim pilgrims at holy sites in Saudi Arabia

The robots will explain prayer rituals in Mecca and Medina in multiple languages, according to Saudi religious authorities.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

The authorities responsible for Islam’s holiest sites have announced a new fleet of robots to assist female worshippers. 

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque said the “smart guidance” robots will explain prayer rituals and Islamic declarations known as fatwas in the women’s sections of the Great Mosque of Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in Saudi Arabia. They will also answer questions about the holy sites and allow women to communicate with scholars. The robots offer answers in 11 languages including English, Turkish, Persian and Urdu as well as Arabic. The wheeled robots communicate via touch screens, read a presidential press release yesterday. 

Every year, Muslims journey to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage to pray at the Great Mosque or al-Masjid al-Haram, the holiest site in Islam. They typically also travel to the city of Medina to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque, or Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. Islam commands Muslims to perform the hajj at least once in their lifetimes. They also often visit Mecca’s holy sites at other times of the year is what is referred to as umrah. Men and women pray separately at both sites. 

Saudi authorities unveiled the robots this month to assist men and women pilgrims making the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, according to the Saudi news outlet Arab News.

Robots are not new in the holy city of Mecca. Last year, the little machines handed out water to worshippers during the hajj. 

The Saudi government is exploring robots for non-religious purposes as well, and some Saudi government entities such as the state-owned oil company Aramco are investing in artificial intelligence. In 2017, Saudi Arabia notoriously granted citizenship to a female robot named Sophia.

Correction: this article was edited to clarify that the robots are available to male and female worshippers. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial