Published: Mon, August 20, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Saudi Arabia barring Hajj pilgrims, Qatar says

Saudi Arabia barring Hajj pilgrims, Qatar says

Saudi Arabia has said that more than 2.3 million pilgrims, majority from outside Saudi Arabia, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey. This is considered as the first pilgrimage in Islam.

"For many Muslims this is the big, the biggest, dream of life, to see Kaaba and pray for yourself and the whole Muslim nation".

The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from overseas including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for hajj", the committee's Abdullah al-Kaabi said.

"Because of the war the prices are very high".

Haj season is being managed with tight security to ensure the well being of pilgrims.

But three travel agencies in Doha said they had stopped trying to sell Hajj packages, which can cost up to $33,000 (120,000 riyals).

Al-Turki, the Interior Ministry spokesman, acknowledged both the threat posed by a possible missile launch from Yemen's rebels and militant attacks during the hajj.

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"My feeling is indescribable to perform the hajj", said Imad Abdel-Raheem, an Egyptian pilgrim.

Every Muslim is required to complete the hajj journey to Islam's holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so.

"We have deployed all our human and technical resources to watch the stand of the pilgrims on Arafat and monitor their descent to Muzdalifa and from there to Mina early Tuesday", he said.

"I feel as light as a feather", said Senegalese Fame Diouf, who travelled from Amsterdam. "I cry every day".

Muslims believe the hajj retraces the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as those of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail - Abraham and Ishmael in the Bible.

This includes electronic identification bracelets, connected to Global Positioning System, that were introduced after a 2015 crush killed hundreds. The wuquf is the most important part of Hajj.

"We have a fleet of more than 18,000 buses, all of them linked to a control system that tracks their path".

This year the hajj comes with the ultra-conservative kingdom witnessing an unprecedented pace of change, finally ending a ban on women driving while remaining firm in the face of any dissent.

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