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Countdown to haj begins

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With a week to go before the beginning of the sacred haj pilgrimage, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has noted that the majority of hujjaj have already begun making their way into the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, Sahuc president Shaheen Essop said the hujjaj were in good spirits ahead of the much anticipated pilgrimage, with Sahuc yet to experience any major issues .

“Having spoken to the guys in the Kingdom, our head of mission and our mission team, things are going quite well,” he said.

Despite initial glitches surrounding the issuance of visas, which was attributed to system problems within the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he stressed that all visas to South African pilgrims had since been issued.

In a bid to assist pilgrims in keeping contact with family members and loved ones back home, Essop said Sahuc had managed to procure nearly 2000 sim cards in Saudi Arabia, prior to their departure. Those sim cards were issued to hujjaj via their respective haj operators, upon receiving their passports back from the Saudi embassy.

“Telephone numbers would have been provided to the family, and each hujjaj is in possession of such a sim card. They will then be able to be contacted accordingly,” he said.

In light of the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, Essop said hujjaj were being vigorously checked for the Yellow Card vaccination certificates, upon arrival in the Kingdom. He strongly advised those pilgrims yet to depart, not to forget their cards.

“From our side, just make sure you don’t leave your Yellow Card at home. It will either cost you extra for additional vaccinations, or alternatively you may even find that they turn you away and put you on a plane back to your country of origin,” he warned.

He also stated that for any complaints, the “first door to call” for pilgrims would be Sahuc’s own head of mission in the Kingdom.

Hajj 1435 will officially begin on Thursday 2nd October to Monday 6th October. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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