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Feeding the Masses: German Firm to Assess Catering Project for Mecca Pilgrims

This is one bid that could spice up anyone's portfolio. The German service provider Dussmann has signed a multi-million euro contract with a Saudi Arabian company to examine the feasibility of a new catering facility for religious pilgrims in the desert state.

Tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers shuffle around the Kaaba, the black cube in the center of Mecca's Grand Mosque. The annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, draws around 2.5 million people each year. Zoom
AP

Tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers shuffle around the Kaaba, the black cube in the center of Mecca's Grand Mosque. The annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, draws around 2.5 million people each year.

It's uncharted territory for the Dussmann Group, a company that has in the past limited itself to less exotic endeavors like building sanitation, providing security or the administration of retirement homes. Having finalized a consulting contract with the Saudi company Hijaz Catering Co. Ltd., the Germans have been asked to conduct a "feasibility study" on the planning, construction and operation of a new production facility to provide meals for religious pilgrims to the Muslim holy city of Mecca and bolster Hijaz's foothold in the catering business.

Named after the region in the Saudi kingdom that is home to the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina, Hijaz gets a lot of its business from the millions of pilgrims that flock to the Gulf state every year. Known as the hajj, the annual pilgrimage must be made by every able-bodied Muslim at least once in their lifetime.

Traveling thousands of miles in some cases, pilgrims from around 138 countries circle the great stone monument, the Kaaba, seven times during their visit to Mecca's Grand Mosque. The Hijaz caterers have been providing Mecca's devout visitors with halal cuisine, or meals prepared according to Islamic law, for nearly a century. They supply malls, schools and hospitals, restaurants and private parties. Now they are looking to expand.

"There is no best practice example for the production volumes nor for the technological, logistical and cultural challenges involved in the project," a press release from the Dussmann Group stated. Such an endeavor thus necessitates serious planning, hence the feasibility study.

The number of pilgrims that head to Mecca and Medina each year alone is enough to make even an experienced chef's head spin, then come the dietary restrictions for Muslims and the different eating habits depending on a pilgrim's country of origin. Not to mention the climate. Cooking for that many people would be hard enough without the sweltering temperatures in the Kingdom that often hover around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

For now, Dussmann is just giving Hijaz's proposal a closer look, a company spokesperson told SPIEGEL. Whether or not the Germans will get directly involved with feeding the hajjis is still food for thought.

SPIEGEL/cjc

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