From the news desk

First SA hajjis back on Wed

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The first few groups of South African hujjaj are expected to return to the country on Wednesday afternoon, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) said on Monday. With the annual Haj pilgrimage drawing to a close, Sahuc’s head of mission in the Saudi Kingdom has reported that the Saudi Araibia experienced few problems on their journey, with the exception of a few minor niggles for some. Nevertheless, he said the majority were all in high spirits.

According to Sahuc president Shaheen Essop, the movement of hujjaj had also gone well, with the South African contingent having successfully departed the plains of Arafat, and arrived in Muzdalifah before 9pm on Saturday evening.

“That in itself tells you that the organization of everything that goes into the movement of pilgrims, has been extremely successful,” he said.

Essop said there have been notable improvements in the Kingdom over the past year, which have sought to make the pilgrimage easier for hujjaj. This includes the introduction of a designated bus lane from Arafat and Muzdalifah, for those who opt not to walk the distance. The bus service is aimed solely at hujjaj that use the non-special services camps.

“This is dedicated solely for the buses that run to specific points. They give us a point of pick-up and they give us a point of drop-off. Once the pilgrims are in Muzdallifah, then obviously from there to Mina is very close and they generally walk that period,” he said.

Sahuc had specifically designated guides to accompany those who preferred to walk the distance form Arafat all the way to Mina. The guides would ensure none of the South African pilgrims were left behind, or got lost.

Essop predicted the first hujjaj would start returning to South Africa on Wednesday afternoon.

“The first flight according to our schedule is out on Saudi Airlines, and they depart from Jeddah at 9:15pm and touchdown in Johannesburg at 4:30 pm or 5:00pm. Thereafter they will be dispatched to their various cities,” he explained. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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