The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has urged potential mu’tamireen to sort out their travel arrangements early, ahead of another busy festive and holiday season period for the travel industry. With the umrah season having now opened and many Muslims frantically rushing to get their tickets and accommodation sorted ahead of a journey to the Saudi Kingdom.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat on Thursday, Sahuc president Shaheen Essop said it was vital that community members ensured they were dealing with regulated operators when booking for the trip. This meant that the travel agent would need to have certification that they were in fact registered with authorities in the Kingdom. At present there are 16 accredited operators in South Africa, all of which are listed on the Sahuc website.
“It is a case of let’s do our homework before we do anything else. Unfortunately we often find when it comes to haj and umrah that trust becomes an important factor. As a result of this trust factor, we tend to lose sight of all the necessary and important information,” he said.
The umrah season coincides with a busy end of year period which, from a flight perspective often complicates travel arrangements. With that in mind, Essop said it was of paramount importance that those planning to undertake the journey sought out a travel agent as early as possible.
“This is going to be a bumper season for the operators in the Kingdom, because hotels are already being booked up as quickly as possible. The estimated number for South Africans that are going to travel through this holiday period is in the region of 13 000. If you consider the fact that only 2000 go for haj, it certainly is a very big number,” he said.
Amongst the main pieces of advice was that travelers obtained adequate foreign currency for the trip. Alternatively, they could ensure they had access to a bank card that would make drawing funds in the Kingdom much easier. This was all to ensure travelers were not walking around with large sums of money.
Also advisable was that those on choric medication travelled with a receipt or doctor’s letter, so as to avoid any hassles at their airports.
Essop also commented on Sahuc’s now concluded haj complaints process, noting that it had yielded only six complaints nationwide. Three of these complaints were from hujjaj in Durban, two from Johannesburg, with a solitary complaint coming from Cape Town.
“We’ve given people adequate time to put their complaints in writing, and if they have failed to officially report it to Sahuc, then we don’t take it as a complaint,” he said.
He added the complaints would likely be addressed by the first or second week in January. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)