July 6, 2022

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Muslims worried about new Hajj rules in Mecca: 'No one saw this coming'

Muslims worried about new Hajj rules in Mecca: ‘No one saw this coming’

The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is mandatory for all healthy adult Muslims who are able to afford it. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam (religious duties). The other four are prayer, fasting, charity, and belief in God Almighty and in Muhammad as a Messenger.

Muslims from the Netherlands usually book Hajj through specialized travel agencies. They were unfortunately informed last week that the Saudi authorities were switching to a new platform at the last minute. The organization called Mutawaf is now the only platform through which pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia can book a flight.

Muslims can Register until 19:00 pm Via the Saudi government website. But they are not sure where. The raffle will eventually determine who can travel to Mecca from July 7-12 this year.

‘disappointment’

For Muslims who want to perform the Hajj, the new rules are a huge disappointment. Abdelilah, 43, believes it is a “great disappointment”. “I already got a place and made a deposit at a travel agency,” he says. “I was really busy with preparations and arranged days off from work. It’s very heavy news. No one expected or expected this. I don’t understand it at all.”

He wanted to make a pilgrimage to Mecca for three years. The flight was two years late with coronavirus, but this year it really had to happen. It will be his first time. “I actually saved up for it. As soon as that was possible again, I wanted to go that way.”

But unfortunately, his place is gone. However, Abdulelah did not lose hope. He scored again via the new platform, will he get a place? “I don’t think so. A lot of people from all over the world want to go. I was glad I got a place through the travel agency.”

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About the new platform There is still a lot of uncertainty. For example, it is not known how many Muslims in each country obtain the “Hajj visa”, which is, among other things, a condition for walking the Hajj. Also, the travel agents do not know if they will take back the deposits from the Saudi government.

“The financial consequences are very significant,” says the owner of a travel agency that specializes in organizing Umrah. Prefers anonymity for fear of negative attention. “We’re going through a really tough time right now, and I don’t want to take the risk.”

red hot phone

He says his phone has been very hot since last week’s news. All customers who have booked the flight – about seventy in his condition – want to know if they get their money back. The trip is not a bargain: to perform the pilgrimage you lose on average between 4,500 and 7,500 euros per koruna – depending on the luxury chosen.

Prices for this year were still not clear, “but given inflation, it could have been much higher.” The owner says he works to give back to everyone. “We’ll see how far we get. Otherwise I’ll have to borrow.”

He continues, “We have been standing idly by for three years.” “We haven’t been able to do anything for two years during the Corona crisis. So we were hoping that this would be the year we could sort everything out, but no. Two to three weeks before you leave, you’ll be told it’s not going to take place.”

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It’s not the only travel agency in the Netherlands that suffers from burlap and ash due to the new rules. Travel agency Mekka & Medina Reizen was “completely surprised” by the news. “This is not good for travel agencies and clients,” said Director Abdullah. Since the news, he has been overshadowed by phone calls from customers. They wonder if they can go – and if so – how they will make the trip. “Now they have to do everything themselves, without direction,” he says. “If they pass through us, they will have a clue from start to finish.”

“End exercise”

Abdullah says you can’t make the decision to move to a new “head over heels” platform. The owner of the other travel agency agrees. He wants to see if travel agencies in the Netherlands offering Hajj can unite. Because he says, “If I can’t do it anymore, the result is practice.”

The good news is that the last hope is not completely gone. It turns out that the Saudi minister responsible for Umrah has been asked to postpone the new system until next year From a speech held by the BBC. But it is not yet known whether that will be followed either.