The South African Haj Travel Operators Association (Sathoa) believes its decision not to opt for air conditioned camps in the non-special services camp at Arafat was in the best interest of hujjaj. Sathoa chairperson Sedick Steenkamp was commenting on the matter, amid concerns raised that the Saudi Kingdom’s punishing heat would adversely affect hujjaj. Pilgrims around the world commence the haj on Saturday, and the climax of haj, the day of Arafat, will be marked on Sunday.
Speaking to VOC from Makkah, Steenkamp said the issue of the air conditioners at Arafat was discussed with haj operators and Sahuc and the haj operator fraternity felt the cost was “exorbitant”.
“We will have air conditioned tents for the four days that we spend for Yawm at-Tarwiyah and the next three days of Tashreeq. The Muasassa has informed us that new air conditioners have been placed in the tents,” he explained.
“But we must remember that we never had air conditioners on Arafat before, and this will be the first year that blowers will be placed in tents. It would have been about R2700 per hujjaj and we felt it was too much. At the same time, the rand was spiraling out of control at the time, so we thought it was not viable to use it for a few hours on Arafat.”
Steenkamp said operators also considered the medical impact for hujjaj.
“Given that we are going to spend some time out of the tents, it’s not good to have these temperatures, from the cold, into the sun, back into the air conditioned tents. Upon medical advice, we were told not to take the air conditioner option.”
“From our perspective, the rahma of Allah (swt) is great and we make dua that Allah (swt) will give us favourable weather and make it easy for hujjaj, inshaAllah.”
Hujjaj have been informed of the extreme heat and taxing conditions on Arafat so that they are well equipped for the big day, said Steenkamp.
“Ultimately, we don’t know what will happen on Arafat on Sunday, as the weather changes all time. But we are asking hujjaj to keep hydrated. The Muassasa has made 16 bottles of water available for hujjaj per day and this obviously means they will be going to the toilet often. And with walking in and out of cold camps into the heat, it’s not healthy.”
With anxious hujjaj now immersed into their ihram and most having arrived in Makkah for the start of the haj, operators are readying themselves for the massive exodus of pilgrims.
“Things are going well. We have been having talks with hujjaj and with Arafat on Sunday, arrangement shave been put in place with Sahuc and the Muasassa. We are ready to accompany hujjaj on this holy journey.”
In response, most social media users believe the air conditioned camps are a minor issue and that hujjaj should be detracted from their spiritual journey. On VOC’s Facebook page, many onliners felt pilgrims should place their trust
“Allah knows best. We can’t doubt that Allah SWT won’t look after our hujjaj. Allah alone can protect us from the heat doesn’t matter where we are,” said Sairah Muller.
“We the 1436 group had no air-cons and alhamdulilah Allah protected us,” added Rukeya Daniels.
“It’s not the first time hujjaj would be experiencing the heat. When one focuses on your Ibadah then heat is not a factor. What is important is for Hujaaj to drink lots of fluid. Why pay such an astronomical amount for a day?
For decades people have been performing hajj and Alhamdulilah Allah is great. Labyk Allah Humma labyk!” wrote Insaaf Gasant.
However, others pointed out that luxuries such as air conditioners simply reinforced the divide between rich and poor Muslims, which contradicts the values of equality underpinning the hajj.
“Are we not supposed to be stepping down from our luxuries of dunya..are we not supposed to be focused on our ibaadah…Ya Allah when you in Mina and on Arafaat and you watch the crowds walking to the different destinations you are humbled and you want to step out of the bus and be a part of the Ummah no matter the heat,” added Shameemah Salie.
Tune into VOC for rolling hajj coverage from Saturday. VOC