From the news desk

#Haj2016 comes to an end

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Hujjaj performed their last pelting ritual at the Jamarat today, bringing an end to the physically and mentally rites of haj. While extra safety measures have been put in place, there was some crowding at the Jamarat complex on Wednesday, as throngs of pilgrims made their way to throw all three pillars with pebbles.  The Jamarat bridge was packed to capacity as hujjaj tried to make the most of the last ritual.

“We went for pelting after Thuhr and out of all three days, today was most hectic in terms of crowds. There was the normal pushing that you expect, but no incidents reported,” said hajj correspondent Yusuf Abrajmee

Most hujjaj have moved from Mina to Makkah, while others will stay for one more night to a complete a voluntary pelting on Thursday.

“Many pilgrims are headed towards to Makkah for the final tawaf and then start making their way home.”

Wednesday was a scorcher with heat levels of 42 degrees and a number of hujjaj had to be treated for heat stroke. Saudi Gazette reported that 281,439 pilgrims received medical treatment at the government hospitals in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites.  1,634 kidney dialyses were performed, 25 open heart surgeries conducted, 18 pilgrims were treated against sunstroke and 87 against heat exhaustion. There were also Egyptian media reports that 38 Egyptians have died due to natural causes.

However, a top official said all security and military units participating in the management of Haj were serving in accordance with security and preventive plans set up before the pilgrimage started. He said the work was carried out with due quality and efficiency, as required by the mission, to ensure security, peace and tranquillity for pilgrims. He said that more than 100,000 security men guarded the pilgrims in Makkah and the Holy Sites. Saudi Arabia was forced to reassess its operations for hajj this year, following last year’s deadly stampede at Mina, which claimed the lives of 2,236 pilgrims.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia must be given full remarks for ensuring that security was at a maximum. Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed at various sites and were very helpful to pilgrims,” said Abramjee.

Abramjee said Wednesday was a bitter sweet moment for hujjaj – most were relieved that they had completed their hajj, but also wretched with the realisation that the spiritual journey would see its conclusion soon.

“It was indeed the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think anyone can adequately describe the feeling one has when you complete your hajj. Alhamdullilah, we were very fortunate that it went smoothly this year and that there were no major incidents,” he said.

The first South African flight departs Jeddah airport on Friday night, with the first flight expected at 11.30am.

“We have already been to the Muasassa to ensure that passports are put together and busses arrive on time for the flights. There is a small group expected to arrive on Friday and Saturday afternoon with bigger groups on Sunday,” said Sathoa chairperson Sedick Steenkamp. VOC

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