The first group of South Africans are all ready and set to travel to various Islamic holy cities for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, taking place over a period of five days. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and holds an important place in the hearts of all Muslims. Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) first deputy president, Shaheen Essop said it’s all systems go.
“All things are in place. We have a very big team in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they’ve been there for almost two weeks now,” he said.
“They have set up the facilities in Medina and Makkah to await the arrival of the hujaaj. Tonight’s departure will be going off to Masjidul Aqsa for a few days and thereafter will proceed to Jeddah where they will be welcomed by our team, ushered to Makkah to perform Umrah and then on to Medina,” said Essop.
Essop says that while everything is in place and ready for the most part, hujaaj need to be cognizant of the temperatures in Makkah and ensure their health and safety.
“Notwithstanding small hiccups, everything is under control. The biggest concern we keep hearing is that hujaaj must continuously make sure they are properly hydrated. The temperatures in the Kingdom are somewhere north of 45 degrees Celsius.”
“People need to make sure that they remain hydrated in order to not suffer from dehydration and other health complications.”
Essop also advised that there are certain rules and regulations that hujaaj need to consider when travelling.
“Anyone traveling needs to know that they cannot have more than 100ml per bottle of liquid in their hand luggage. All big bottles of liquid need to be checked in.”
“When carrying foreign currency, make sure that you have the necessary receipts. Failing to do so may result in you finding yourself delayed and consequently losing your flight. It’s not the operator’s responsibility, in which case – it’s your responsibility.”
“Make sure that your Visas and passports are valid and make copies of them to ensure that you have copies when you leave (in the unlikely event that something goes wrong in the international arena and you need them),” said Essop.
Sahuc calls for all hujaaj to be on their best behaviour when travelling.
“Our conduct must be exemplary. We want to show people that we, as Muslims, are the best of people.”
Sahuc Western Cape chairperson, Shaykh Riad Fataar said volunteers will – at Cape Town International Airport – assist all hujaaj who are leaving over the next few weeks. On Tuesday, 37 Capetonian pilgrims from Al Noor travel will depart on Emirates Airlines at 18.20pm.
On Wednesday, a larger group of 26 hujaaj will depart at 13.05pm and 81 people from the Al Jeem Foundation and Khidmatul Awaam at 18.20pm. Hujaaj are urged to arrive at the airport early.
“We make dua that Allah SWT grant all our hujaaj safe travels InshaAllah. May Allah grant them Hajj maqbool and mabroor, Ameen,” said Fataar.
VOC will broadcast live from the Cape Town International Airport at 2pm on Tuesday.