With the annual Hajj pilgrimage drawing to a close on Tuesday, the first few groups of South African Hujaaj are expected to jet back into the country on Wednesday evening. Pilgrims will return in groups of about 50 to 100 people on average each day for the next week, following the five day spiritual journey. On Wednesday night, 115 hujjaj from Khidwatul Awaam, Al Anwar Haj and Umrah and Travel and Tours Worldwide will arrive on a domestic flight at 9pm and 10pm. A substantial amount is also scheduled to return over the coming weekend, as well as the first few days of next week.
“For the last 24 hours, both literally and physically, all rounds have been leading to Jedah Airport here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” ITV broadcaster Saawmiet Moos reported from the Saudi Kingdom.
According to Moos, the mood amongst the returning pilgrims was bittersweet. While they were emotional at having to say goodbye to the Beitullah, many had become attached to Makkah and Madina. They were yearning to return home to reunite with family members, but were also feeling a sense of responsibility to uphold the clean slate earned during their pilgrimage.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions, and a lot of the people we have spoken to have been saying that inshallah, they are making dua that they can come back here soon,” he said.
Despite fears over a possible outbreak of the Ebola virus that has ravaged West Africa in recent months, this year’s Hajj has been declared free of any epidemics by the Saudi Health Ministry. Moos noted that upon arrival in the country, hujjaj were handed special cards which they were required to tick off, to indicate whether they had been in contact with people from Ebola stricken countries, or whether they had personally visits those countries recently.
“If you have ticked that card to say you have been, you would have gone through a special screening, which is over and above the screening that all the other Hujaaj went through as they were coming into the airport,” he said.
He praised the efficiency and hard work put in by the Kingdoms medical staff, noting that they were visible on every corner of the Hajj terminal upon arrival at the various airports.
The ITV crew will spend the next few days in the holy city of Madina, before returning to South Africa on Sunday 12th October.
The first batch of South African pilgrim’s will touchdown in Johannesburg at 5pm on Wednesday, before moving on to their respective cities. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)