By Aneeqa du Plessis
Hundreds of aspiring Hujjaj came out to Belgravia high school hall in Athlone on Saturday, where the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) hosted their annual Hajj roadshow. The roadshow is an expo that travels from province to province which aims to inform prospective pilgrims on the protocols of their auspicious journey.
A great deal of information was bestowed on prospective Hujjaj by several stakeholders. Apart from the advice that was offered to the aspiring Hujjaj, there were several registered Hajj operators lining the parameters of the school. Hajj operators were in full swing trying to persuade impressionable first time Hujjaj with travel packages. SAHUC president, Shaheen Essop warned pilgrims to be meticulous when choosing a travel operator.
“Look at packages and look at what is going to suit you from a pocket, timing and process perspective.”
Essop also encouraged hujjaj to ensure 5 fundamental aspects are included in any package before signing the physical contract:
Accommodation in Medina
Accommodation in Mecca
Accommodation in Aziziyah (if you’re moving to Aziziyah)
Hajj package prices remain one of the biggest concerns for travelers. Essop reiterates that it is illogical to compare a price that existed in the 90’s to that of todays.
“If you look at vehicle price in 1969 versus a vehicle price today, you wouldn’t be able to drive a car if you base it on 1969 prices.”
Essop explained to travellers that the inflationary issues faced in the Saudi Kingdom will ultimately cause a ripple effect. Another point that was raised was the misconceptions that many people have about the hajj application process.
“People need to understand that nobody is in the position to manipulate this queue. Nobody has access to the system to be able to change a position in the queue. We have an order trail in the process. We have an external verification system in order to make sure that everything is equitable, transparent and fair,” said Essop.
Once accreditation is received, it is the responsibility of the Hajji to either accept or transfer the application. If the accreditation is transferred the aspiring Hajji will follow the same process of accreditation for the next year. Many people have raised the question of the short time allocated for accepting or transferring.
“Folks, you’ve been in the queue for 4 or 5 years, you know whether you’re going for Hajj or not. You know whether you’re ready or not. If you’re not ready, defer – if 2020 is your year then accept. It’s as simple as that,” said Essop.
If you’ve accepted your accreditation and then decide to defer, the R1500 accreditation fee will be refunded to you.
Subsequently, Essop has advised hujjaj to pay for their entire package upfront to avoid falling prey to fluctuating exchange rates.
Key take-aways from the road show:
Ensure your travel operator is accredited
Scrutinize packages before signing the contract
When carrying foreign currency make sure you have your receipts on hand
Carry a letter from your doctor issuing you the medication if you’re on chronic medication
Drug trafficking in the kingdom carries the death penalty
Saudi’s vision for the year 2030 is that 30 million Mu’tamireen and 5 million Hujjaj will to perform Hajj in that year.
A second roadshow will take place in the month of April. Accredited Hujjaj are urged to attend as the activities within the Saudi kingdom, roles and responsibilities are going to be explained in detail.