2013 Hajj — Significant improvement in arrangements
More than 3,000 prospective 2013 Hajj pilgrims in the country, under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Ibrahim Abdul Rauf Tanko of the National Hajj Committee (NHC), have so far been airlifted to Saudi Arabia to perform this year’s Hajj.
According to the Deputy Communication Director of NHC, Mr Mohammed Amin Lamptey, the first 10 batches of pilgrims were airlifted by Egypt Air, while the remaining five are expected to be flown by National Air Service (NAS), a Saudi Arabian domestic and international airline.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious duty which must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim, at least, once in his or her lifetime.
He told the Daily Graphic that the initial quota of 7,424 given to Ghana was reduced by 20 per cent, bringing the number to 5,424, due to some expansion works being carried out at the holy sites in Saudi Arabia, and added that the reduction was worldwide.
He said the last flight would leave Ghana on October 6, 2013.
Furthermore, he said this year, the NHC had built a warehouse to store Zamzam, holy water from Mecca, for the pilgrims. That, he said, was to prevent the pilgrims from complaining of lost items such as the holy water, which was an important commodity for the pilgrims.
‘The airlines that fly the pilgrims usually come back empty so we have decided to transport the holy water in these flights so that when the pilgrims get back, they could have their water,’ he explained.
Mr Lamptey also said this year, the committee was dealing with 21 Hajj agents, with each agent being given a timetable of departure of flights.
Egypt Air has so far airlifted 3,170 pilgrims, while NAS, which will cater for the last five flights, would take 419 pilgrims on each flight. Therefore, pilgrims were not expected to stay for more than 24 hours at the village, making the process more understandable and ‘running smoothly.’
Additionally, he said the 378 pilgrims who were not able to perform the Hajj in 2012, were also to be airlifted.
He added that the committee had also paid all flight fares in full, making it easy for them, as well as the pilgrims, to have a successful pilgrimage. ‘We are not indebted to any airline so everything is in order this year.’
On sensitisation, Mr Lamptey said the NHC had organised a number of seminars to educate the prospective pilgrims on the dos and don’ts of Hajj.
He also said prior to the departure of the pilgrims, some Islamic scholars educated the various agents on the Hajj processes, and they also educated the pilgrims on what to do in order to have a fruitful Hajj.
In view of this, he said, 35 Islamic scholars would be accompanying the pilgrims this year to see to their needs and also take them through the Hajj process.
He added that four doctors and 35 nurses would also be accompanying the pilgrims, with each flight having about five nurses on board. This is to cater for the health needs of the pilgrims, as well as help sensitise the pilgrims to the deadly coronavirus in the Middle East.
Coronavirus infection causes severe acute respiratory disease which requires ventilation support similar to the severe form of pneumonia.
The symptoms of the disease include sudden difficulty in breathing, kidney failure, heart disorders and bleeding tendencies in some patients.
The outbreak of the virus was reported in April 2012 in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and parts of the Middle East.
Mr Lamptey added that prospective pilgrims were also advised against the transportation of contraband goods such as cola. This is to ensure that pilgrims do not run into difficulties with Saudi Arabian immigration authorities,’ he said.
He also lauded the Hajj agents for cooperating with the committee, which, he said, had resulted in the smooth operation of the committee.
Even though the committee has been able to solve some challenges confronting the Hajj process, such as the flight delays and meeting deadlines set by the Saudi Arabian authorities, infrastructure still remained a headache for the committee.
He also said there was the need to expand the Hajj Village and put in place more infrastructure, since the number of pilgrims increased every year. As you can see, some of the pilgrims are outside the tents provided and this is not good because it might rain any moment and they may not have a place to go ,’ he explained.
The Daily Graphic’s visit to the Hajj Village revealed that a number of shops and stalls had been set up. Among the items on sale were the Holy Quran, prayer mats, talismans, veils, dresses and foodstuffs. Food vendors were also engaged in brisk business.
One amusing scene at the village was how some mobile credit unit vendors took advantage of the lack of access to electricity to charge the mobile phones of the pilgrims who were waiting for the flight, as well as their relatives, for GH¢2 each.
A vendor who declined to mention his name said business had been good in the past few days and he prayed that the pilgrim’s stay would be prolonged so that he could make more sales.
About the arrangements of Hajj this year, a pilgrim from Tamale, Mr Yakubu Dauda, told the Daily Graphic that he was happy with the preparation and lauded the NHC for its efforts.
He, however, suggested that in future, pilgrims in the Northern Region should be flown from the region to Saudi Arabia instead of coming down south.
‘It’s already a hectic journey travelling from the north to the south so I will prefer that we are flown from the north to Mecca to save us some strength for the rituals ahead,’ he said.
Giving her assessment, Hajia Fuseinatu Iddrisu, a pilgrim who had already visited Mecca twice, applauded the preparations this year and said, ‘Insha Allah, of all the pilgrims I have attended, this year’s preparation has been exceptional.’
By Zainabu Issah/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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