The Mercury

Annual Hajj to take place this year


THE Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has announced that the annual Hajj pilgrimage, drawing more than 2 million people to Mecca, will take place this year.

While it said this would be in adherence with Covid-19 safety measures, it provided no further informatio­n on guidelines for travel operators and travellers. The pilgrimage to Mecca will take place in July. South African Hajj and Umrah Council president Shaheen Essop said: “We always remain hopeful to be able to send pilgrims from South Africa for Hajj. There are always concerns, and while we are not yet privy to the finer details regarding the conditions that the KSA may impose, the ball is up in the air.”

Last year saw a scaled-down pilgrimage, with about 1 000 people, and internatio­nal travellers barred.

“Hujjaj who were not able to go went back into the queue according to their date and time of applicatio­n. No preference can be offered since we don't know the number (for) the quota or the conditions,” Essop said.

South African Muslim Travel Operators Associatio­n (Samtoa) chairperso­n Sedick Steenkamp said they welcomed the announceme­nt.

Samtoa represents 80% of licensed Hajj and Umrah operators in the country. Steenkamp said there was uncertaint­y around whether South Africa would be invited to the pilgrimage, due to variants identified, and if the country was able to secure the vaccines acceptable for Hajj purposes.

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