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Update Haj 2016: ‘Atmosphere remains calm amid safety concerns’

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Whilst the 2000 South Africans that have planned to perform the pilgrimage have already made their way to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the approximately 250 pilgrims who are awaiting their departure, adequate preparation and information can prove to be pivotal for their spiritual journey.

VOC spoke to the chairperson of the South African Travel and Haj Operators Association (SATHOA), Sedick Steenkamp, to understand what hujjaaj should remain mindful of.

In light of the safety concerns following the recent bombings in Madina and Qatif , he says that SAHUC volunteers are ready to direct first-time visitors and anyone who seeks assistance.

“The SAHUC volunteers have been ready since they have arrived, I must say they are doing an astonishing job in welcoming their hujjaj and working with the operators to ensure the convenience of the hujjaj,” Steenkamp added.

Steenkamp reports on the matter of security by saying that the passage to the Kingdom has been fairly smooth, the atmosphere is very calm and that there are no security issues or a heightened sense of security.

He further notes that the weak and unpredictable Rand creates a need for prior planning that will lead to efficient spending for hujjaj during their stay.

Steenkamp, who has recently returned from the Kingdom, says that hujjaaj need to protect themselves against heatstroke as temperatures rise, by remaining hydrated.

“It is very hot in the Kingdom; hujjaj must hydrate themselves and stay out of the sun. If prayer time cannot be met, then be sure to do it within the place you are staying. Ensure that you do budget properly in terms of spending your money because things are a bit expensive in the Kingdom,” he noted.

VOC (Imran Salie)

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