After performing their first Jumuah in the glorious city of Madina, the first groups of South African hujjaj are glowing and preparing themselves spiritually for the rituals of haj. The mood in the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) revered city is one of peace and tranquillity and hujjaj are using their time to relax before the hustle and bustle of Makkah.
“You see the elated faces. The spirituality that exists here in Madina…it’s very beautiful. A sight not to be missed,” says Sedick Steenkamp, chairperson of the South African Travel Haj Operators Association (Sathoa), who arrived in Madina this week.
“Madina is fairly empty and people could enjoy the Haram for themselves. But as more hujjaj trickle in, it will be busier.”
South African hujjaj, who are part of Khidmatul Awaam, were the first pilgrims to arrive on Wednesday, followed by pilgrims from Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived a bit later.
In Jeddah, the 400 South African hujjaj were given a warm welcome by Saudi authorities including the head of the Muasassa for African countries, Shaykh Waleed Alawi; the field office managing South African hujjaj, SA consul general Shuaib Kasu and the head of the SA haj mission, Hafez Ismail Koovadia.
The safe arrival was a sigh of relief for many anxious travellers who experienced delays at Dubai airport, after it was shut down on Wednesday following an accident involving a landing Emirates plane. The Emirates Airline flight from India caught fire after making an emergency landing at Dubai International Airport, but all 300 passengers and crew escaped from the burning fuselage, authorities said.
“A few of our hujajj were delayed at Dubai International Airport and came in a day late due to the cancellation of an Emirates flight from Dubai into the Saudi Kingdom,” Steenkamp explained.
“We understand the unfortunate accident and none of the 300 people on their aircraft was hurt. One fire-fighter died while trying to save the lives of the people on-board. We make dua that Allah (swt) grant this fire-fighter Janatul-Firdaus, Ameen.”
Sahuc’s logistical team arrived last week to set up their services and half of the medical team is in the kingdom.
“The surgery has been set up right opposite the Haram at the al-Majeedi centre where Sahuc was staying last year. In Madina, the clinic is conveniently set up for hujjaj to visit should they require,” Steenkamp added.
Hujjaj who are in the holy cities from the 1st of Dhil Qaida for the six week haj experience will stay for 10 days in Madina, and then move onto Makkah to maximise their time at Masjid al-Ḥarām.
For those who are waiting for the big days of haj, Steenkamp had sage advice.
“You can see the anxiety, excitement and tiredness on the faces of the hujjaj. But there is just so much enthusiasm to want to be in the Haram and to greet the qabr of the Nabi Muhammad (saw),” says Steenkamp.
“When people come to Madina, we advise them to rest a little bit and take it easier. It’s a gruelling trip for the elderly and if you don’t have all the energy, it’s better to sleep an hour or two.”
On Saturday, more than 150 hujjaj will depart at 5am from Cape Town International Airport with groups such as Travel Express, Al Anwar Express, Yusrah’s travels and others. VOC