FASTER IMMIGRATION CLEARANCE
Pilgrims to be housed in hotels near Prophet’s Mosque
MALAYSIAN haj pilgrims will not just enjoy fast-track Immigration service this year, but will be housed in comfortable and spacious hotels here very close to the Prophet’s Mosque.
The furthest hotel for Malaysian pilgrims from the courtyard of the mosque is just 300m. Two hotels — Al Haram and Anwar Al Madinah Mövenpick — are merely 100m away from the mosque’s courtyard.
Malaysian haj affairs vice-consul Affandi Abdullah said Tabung Haji (TH) ensured all hotels were within walking distance from the mosque, and as such, pilgrims should take advantage of the proximity to perform the five daily prayers and other supplementary prayers there.
“The Prophet’s Mosque or Masjid Nabawi is so near for them so they should go unless there are unavoidable circumstances preventing them from doing so,” Affandi, who is also TH operations director in Madinah, told Malaysian media after inspecting the rooms for pilgrims at the Al Haram Hotel here. Present was TH manager for the Zone 1 Services Centre Fisol Nayan.
The first batch of 483 pilgrims will be arriving here today.
The Prophet’s Mosque is Islam’s second holiest site after the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
It was built by Prophet Muhammad after his emigration to Madinah. The mosque now incorporates his final resting place, as well as those of the first two caliphs, Abu Bakar and Umar.
A single prayer performed at the Prophet’s Mosque is equivalent to a thousand prayers performed anywhere else.
Pilgrims traditionally visit Madinah to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque either before they begin the haj rituals or once they have completed it.
Affandi said at the Al Haram Hotel, there were three types of rooms which could accommodate four, five or eight pilgrims each.
“We can place 3,030 pilgrims in this 14-floor hotel, which has just been repainted and had new carpets installed.
“Among the services available at this hotel are cash withdrawals, counselling and others,” he said, adding that the facilities at the other hotels were similar.
“The beds are also high enough for the pilgrims to stow their luggage under them.”
He said lunch and dinner were prepared for pilgrims and they could collect their packed meals at designated times from the cafe.
TH has secured accommodation for Malaysian haj pilgrims in nine hotels here, grouped under three zones, with each zone providing the full suite of TH services for pilgrims, including religious advice, medical, financial, postal, counselling and communications facilities.
The hotels can take in 9,661 pilgrims at any one time.
The first batch of 483 pilgrims flying out on an Airbus A380 will be landing at the Prince Mohammad Abdulaziz International Airport here.
“Due to the new fast-track Immigration service, pilgrims will get pre-clearance in Kuala Lumpur. Upon arrival in Madinah, they will only need to get their luggage scanned and can immediately board the bus to the hotel.
“They need not worry about their baggage as it will be brought to their rooms by TH personnel,” Affandi said.
TH’s haj department senior general manager Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman had said on Wednesday that there would be faster and smoother checkins for the 30,200 Malaysians performing the haj this year, as part of a joint initiative by Saudi Arabia and the Malaysian government to make it easier for the pilgrims.
The waiting period for pilgrims at the terminal would be reduced from five hours to two through this initiative, he said.
Meanwhile, Affandi said TH would try to place spouses and family members close together, if possible on the same floor with men and women in separate rooms.
Due to the new fast-track immigration service, pilgrims will get pre-clearance in Kuala Lumpur. Upon arrival in Madinah, they will only need to get their luggage scanned and can immediately board the bus to the hotel. AFFANDI ABDULLAH
Malaysian haj affairs vice-consul
Malaysian haj affairs vice-consul Affandi Abdullah (left) and TH manager for the Zone 1 Services Centre Fisol Nayan inspecting the Al Haram Hotel in Madinah yesterday.