Despite some small hiccups, the mass exodus of pilgrims to the tent city of Mina went off well on Friday morning. The movement of hujjaj from Makkah and Azizia got off to a slow start after busses were delayed by two hours. According to the South African Hajj and Umrah Council’s (Sahuc) Head of Mission, Hafiz Ismail Kholvadia, all 4000 South African hujjaj had arrived in Mina by 10am. The pilgrims will spend the day in the massive tent city in preparation for the day of Wuqoof on Arafat on Saturday.
“The busses were delayed by two hours. This had a knock-on effect as we only started moving at 3am. We also had road closures and a few busses getting lost, which added to the delay. Our initial time was to get all hujjaj Mina by 9am but alhamdullilah, we achieved our goal to get every South African hajji to Camp B. Hujaaj are ready for the crux tomorrow in Arafat, Insha-Allah,” he reported.
Hujjaj are in good spirits and now gearing themselves mentally for the climax of the pilgrimage. With concerns around the health and safety of hujaaj being a key issue, Kholvadia added that all hujjaj are in safe hands.
“We’ve educated hujaaj on how to survive the heat, but the forecast for Arafat is 55 degrees…the key for every hajji is hydration – we’ve repeatedly emphasised it. I’m sure those who listen will be able to manage,” he said.
“I am also told that this year in Arafat, they have provided air conditioning facilities in our tents…this will relieve some concerns.”
South African journalist Faizel Patel said 500 ambulances have been placed at strategic points for hujjaj and that more than 50 clinics will remain open to accommodate any individuals who experience heat stroke or any other medical emergency. Patel forms part of the international media delegation who are given exclusive insights into the hajj.
“It’s not easy controlling 3 million people all going to the same place – it’s a massive logistical challenge,” said Patel.
He said Saudi authorities had made remarkable improvements to the hajj, to ensure there is no repeat of the 2015 Mina stampede disaster in which more than 200 hujjaj were killed.
“The authorities have now made absolutely clear what is and isn’t permitted. If people abide by the rules and regulations, things will go smoothly. There have been no incidents so far.”
Patel said the spirituality of the Hajj has moved thousands to tears.
“The atmosphere is electric…people are excited and overwhelmed,” said Patel.
“Some people burst into tears, saying that they’ve finally realised their dream. It’s such a wonderful experience and nobody can ever describe the beauty of Islam when all these millions of people are going to one place.”