What does a temporary tent city for 3 million people look like? A recent visit to Expo 2010 in Shanghai clued me in to what is probably the largest ephemeral urban design in the world, the Mina Tent City in Saudi Arabia, erected each year to house Hajj pilgrims visiting Mecca during the last month of the lunar Islamic calendar. The tent city is stunningly portrayed in a pavilion in the Urban Best Practices Area of Expo 2010, with huge wall size aerial photos and birdseye views that do far more justice to the scale of the tent city than what I can show online. The tent city is erected in a valley next to the village of Mina, east of Mecca itself. It is an extremely regimented design with infrastructure such as toilets and water supply designated for a reasonable number of tents in each cell. The tents are standardized and have been designed to be well ventilated and prevent fires that used to be common in the more chaotic pilgrim tent cities of the past. The planning, design, atmosphere and overall purpose are perhaps the diametrical opposite of Black Rock City (the temporary city created for the Burning Man Festival each year) that I posted about in 2007, although the size, population, and crazy logistics of transportation at Mina Tent City and for the Hajj in general is orders of magnitude greater than anything the Black Rock City needs to handle.
Here are some birdseye views of what Mina Tent City looks like: