Cape Town International airport was packed to the rafters on Wednesday night as the first groups of Cape hujjaj arrived home from the journey of a lifetime. From 8pm, family and friends started arriving, waiting anxiously for the news hajjis to walk through the electric doors at the domestic arrivals section.
Many people stood with posters welcoming the hujjaj, while others brought flowers and children waited with anticipation – the nerves and excitement clearly showing on their faces. With the first flight delayed by 40 minutes, the anxiousness grew, as more than 400 people crammed into the domestic arrivals passage.
Airport security cordoned off the arrival sections to ensure that well wishers did not block the passage while Sahuc volunteers controlled the crowds. 110 pilgrims arrived last night with various haj groups. By 10.30 the first hujaaj streamed in, and there was much jubilation from the crowd.
Wearing the traditional Cape hujjaj style garb, they seemed relaxed and contented. But after greeting their family and friends, many hujjaj broke down in tears, some clinging onto their young children. Fazlin Ranjan from Mitchells Plain travelled with her ill, wheelchair-bound husband and was flanked by their kids.
“I’m excited and also sad to have left Makkah and Madinah…its mixed emotions,” she said, adding that her experience had been “unforgettable”.
Rashida Morton from Bellville who travelled with Al Anwah Haj and Umrah was overcome with happiness to be back home.
“I feel exhilarated and I feel like a re-born person. I feel so full of spirit, alhamdullilah,” she related.
“The haj is indescribable…it is something no one can take away from you.”
Hajji Moegsin Jardine from Kensington, who performed haj many years ago, believes the haj has been made easier.
“Its totally different from all the times I went before. Everything took me by surprise.”
Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels said he was honoured to be part of the first group to arrive back home. Gabriels, who had the task of being a spiritual leader, reflected on his experience this year.
“It seems as if the ummah has grown closer to one another. The spirit and the love was unbelievable…it’s as if Muslims were saying to each other ‘we must put our differences aside as we are one ummah’. The purpose of haj is that Allah wants us to be together, there is no such thing as race, culture or ethnic group. Allah is just looking at you as a human being. And that is how we should accept all Muslims around the world.”
Gabriels delivered a heart rendering prayer from the South African camp on the day of Arafat last Friday and described the spirit of the hujjaj as “electrifying”.
“The South Africans were crying, and if you look to your right hand side, you see the Nigerians, Senegalese and Ghanaians also crying. It’s unimaginable how everyone was immersed in dua.”
The first haj groups to arrive were Al Anwah Haj and Umrah, Khidmatul Awaam, Nurul’Ain, Boolays Travel and Shafeek’s Travels. Sedick Steenkamp, the chairperson of the South African Haj Travel Operators Association (Sathoa), said they expected the first arrivals to be packed and planned accordingly.
“We have ensured that we have our people here at the airport, with the assistance from Sahuc and the Airports Company. Unfortunately, the domestic side is a bit small to cater for crowds like this, but with the discipline we have seen are things going fairly smoothly.”
Hujjaj are expected to arrive on flights every day for the next week. Sahuc president Shaheen Essop says the majority of SA hujjaj, about 1600, were expected home by the weekend. VOC