More than 200 hujaaj left the shores of Cape Town over the past weekend during the first phase of departures for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, with a further 100 departing during the early hours of Monday morning. Capetonians will this year fill around 800 of the 2000 person quota afforded to South African pilgrims by authorities in the Saudi Kingdom.
As locals begin to make their way to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina for the deeply spiritual journey, the South African Hajj Travel Operators Association (Sathoa) has praised the conduct of pilgrims and accompanying ‘well-wishers’ during the first round of departures, with the weekend going by without any incidents of note.
“The people have been very much disciplined, listening to the airport officials and the officials of Sahuc. I must say that alghamdullilah we’ve had no incidents throughout the weekend,” declared Sathoa chairperson, Sedick Steenkamp, allaying fears the expected influx of locals to the Cape Town International Airport would bring about its own set of headaches for officials and airport authorities.
Steenkamp said the overall atmosphere was one of positivity, with “meeters and greeters” very much adhering to the rules of the airport. However, he was keen to reiterate certain issues in relation to how community members should conduct themselves when seeing off family members or friends. This included not congesting the check-in counter area.
“Only the hujaaj are allowed at the check in counter, and we normally allow one of the Haj operator official and Sahuc official to assist the pilgrim with the check-in,” he explained.
Visitors were also being urged to be mindful when using facilities like that of the salaah room, ensuring that areas were not being overcrowded and other travellers not impacted.
“We ask people to just ensure that normal travellers are not being inconvenienced in this regard,” he advised.
Steenkamp added that should any incident arise, the matter would be fully dealt with by airport authorities, with the assistance of operators and Sahuc. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)