From the news desk

Pilgrims in good spirits ahead of Haj

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As Hujaaj in the Saudi Kingdom anxiously await the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, tour operators have been conducting revisions with their respective pilgrims, reminding them of the protocol and movements for the journey ahead.

Amongst the operators currently in Makkah are the Dhuyufullah Hajj and Umrah Group, who have travelled with a total of 37 Hujaaj. Because of strict regulations which bar any operator with less than 50 pilgrims from travelling to the Kingdom, the group has linked up with the Nujoomul Gharamyn Hajj Jamaah.

According to Dhuyufullah representative, Aslam Toefy, the majority of Hujaaj were in good spirits and doing extremely well. He said they weren’t expecting too many difficulties in the days ahead, and expressed confidence the journey would be no different from previous years.

“We are ready to take up any challenge that is there, in order for us to make a Hajj that will be accepted by Allah (S.W.T),” he said.

Because of ongoing construction taking place in Makkah, it has been reported that only a third of the Haram itself has been opened for the use of Hujaaj. The construction has caused severe congestion in and around the Haram, and left a notable trail of dust in the air. With the Dhuyulfullah group situated five minutes away from the Haram, Toefy admitted they weren’t being affected as much by these challenges.

The build up to this year’s Hajj period has been largely overshadow by the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. With millions expected to gather in the holy cities, concerns have been raised that the pilgrimage may serve as a way for the epidemic to spread.

However, Toefy insisted there had been little mention of Ebola since their arrival, with no warnings from Saudi authorities. As far as the Hujaaj, there was no concern amongst them about any potential danger posed by the virus.

The full contingent of South African Hujaaj were addressed by the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) on Monday evening, in terms of their movements over the five day Hajj period.

According to Sahuc’s head of mission, Sheikh Hafez Ismail Kholvadia, there had been little challenges since their arrival, with the only issue of note coming before their departure, with the delay in the issuance of visas. The issue was promptly resolved, with all Hujaaj having departed for the Kingdom.

As far as the number of South Africans that had chosen to undertake the journey, he admitted that from their observations the numbers were lower than previous years.

“If I compare it to the years prior to this, the last two or three, the crowds are definitely down,” he said.

Hajj 1435 is expected to take start on Wednesday the 1st October. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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