Cii News | 20 Shawaal 1436/06 August 2015
All logistics appear to be in place ahead of the departure of first South African Hujaaj next week.
Local Haj regulator SAHUC has declared itself ready to serve the Hujaaj whilst travel operators are said to be in the final stages of concluding arrangements with the Saudi embassy.
Speaking on Sabahul Khair, SAHUC President Shaheen Essop explained that travel operators were working in tandem with a new online Saudi system that is being fully implemented for the very first time this year.
“They should be ready with their documentation by the end of this week. Passports will then be submitted. We expect the first Haj flights next Friday out of Cape Town. Thereafter there will be more on Saturday, and then there will be a succession of flights every day or second day thereafter.”
Pending the issuing of their visas, Essop said the SAHUC mission team was set to depart for Saudi Arabia as early as next Monday. There, he said, they will be setting up clinics in Makkah and Madinah as well as welcoming and assisting South African Hujaaj at the relevant ports of entry.
Questioned about any unique challenges SAHUC faced this year, Essop said there was a 40% dropout from the number of Hujaaj who were originally accredited in April this year.
Those places had to be filled by other Hujaaj in the waiting list, but according to Essop there were a further 18 cancellations most recently which resulted in a further scramble by SAHUC to fill the remainder of South Africa’s 2000 person Haj quota.
“This could be a question of financial management,” said Essop.
Commenting on the rate of foreign exchange, Essop said Hujaaj needed to understand that this was the way markets work and hence needed to plan and manage their finances accordingly.
“Contrary to popular belief,” Essop argued, “the cost of Haj from South Africa is not excessive”.
He reflected on information gleaned at a Tabung Hajji conference in Malaysia which members of his organisation recently attended. Operators from some 12 other countries were also in attendance,” said the SAHUC President.
“On average, the cost of Haj from these countries is $5000 for a maximum of 4 weeks with 4-6 people sharing a room of accommodation. In South Africa, Haj prices range from $3000-$7000″.
Regarding Hajj operators, Essop disclosed that there were 31 travel agencies that applied for permission to transport Hujaaj this year. Of these, he said, 21 had qualified. However, due to their inability to garner a sufficient number of clients, only 16 agencies will be representing South Africa this year.
Being the summer season in Arabia, Essop advised Hujaaj to be cognisant of the level of fitness and hydration required for the abundance of walking that is required during the pilgrimage.
“Rather than going to spend 2 riyaals on a can of Pepsi or Coke, drink as much Zam as you can as it has Shifa properties and is Sunnah”.
Essop also advised relatives of Hujaaj affording them a send-off at airports to be cognisant of their behavior during this season.
“Airports do not belong exclusively to Muslims during Haj period. There are other users as well. We should conduct ourselves in a way that is conducive to this(reality),” he said.
“Adhere to the rules. Visitors must wait aside and not get in the way of actual travellers”.
Sending his best wishes to Hujaaj on behalf of the operator, Essop said:
“Know that you are ambassadors of the South African Muslim community. Remember the Muslim community worldwide in your Duas. We make Dua for your Haj Mabrur and Maqbul”.