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Hajj 1442: The Impact of the Pandemic on Meals and Migrant Workers

Jul 16, 2021

In our second segment of Radio Islam’s ‘Global Build Up to the Hajj’, Hafidh Ibrahim Moosa informed us that according to the Indonesian Hajj Consul in Jeddah, there are roughly 300 000 legally documented Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia. He says that there are, however, probably an even greater number of undocumented Indonesian workers in the Kingdom. Many of their livelihoods are tied to the Hajj and Umrah industry. The lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the COVID regulations have had far reaching consequences – they have filtered through to the small villages in some of the islands of Indonesia where family members are dependent on those in Hajj related jobs in the Kingdom. Hafidh Ibrahim tells us about a man named Mohammed Kampi, who had been serving pilgrims from Indonesia as a Hajj Guide for 15 years. He said, “in a peak Hajj month, and it wouldn’t even be just a month because pilgrims would be coming in much earlier, so perhaps two or three months, plus the month of Ramadhan, he (Muhammed) would earn the equivalent of R300 000 in each month.” So, Hajj would be a time of booming business, where the earnings of an individual month could carry one for the rest of the year. Hafidh Ibrahim says that Muhammed was now forced to take any odd job that came his way; he has to drive people to vaccine centres in the Kingdom, and at one stage had even made an attempt at becoming a Youtuber, in an effort to earn a living, and obviously people trying to tap into whatever revenue you can get from getting paid accounts on YouTube. Another example is that of an Indonesian man, Mr Basumi Hassen, who has been in Saudi Arabia for 30 years. He faces the challenge of not only having to send money home, but of being a breadwinner for several family members. Hafidh Ebrahim said, “(Hassen is) essentially jobless since the entire crisis began. He has said that he’s tried to do anything that you can do to gain an extra income; he’s actually touted his credentials to be as a spiritual healer, to be able to get some sort of income going, but it hasn’t been too successful thus far.” He added, “Indonesians who are living in Saudi Arabia and migrant workers, some of them are guides but many of them in hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and all of them have been affected.” The jobs of Indonesians in the Kingdom are already compromised, because of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to wrestle some jobs back for Saudis. The Indonesian Consulate General said that they are trying to assist Indonesians in Saudi Arabia during this phase, so people who had jobs before are now dependent on the Consulate General for aid packages. Thus far they’ve assisted about 15 000 people. The situation is, of course, much more difficult for those working in the Kingdom, illegally, than those who are there legally. Hafidh Ibrahim said, “For the moment, many of these Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia, decided to hang out for a while, in the hope of the best and that things go back to normal, but some have already started to go back to the country; but they’re facing an uncertain future, now that they have to rebuild their lives.” Indonesian migrant workers and many migrant workers from other parts of the world, added to the tapestry of the Hajj, the beauty that one experiences, those experiences that one brings back home. He says it’s sad how they are they’re struggling to deal with these circumstances, but that Allah would most certainly open a path for them.

Another integral part of service to Hujjaaj is, of course, supplying them with food. Hafidh Ibrahim said, “According to Saudi authorities, food will be banned from being distributed or being served in any sort of congregated way.” He said that this doesn’t necessarily apply in the camps in Mina, but is applicable particularly for hotels, with some pilgrims being housed again in the Mina towers. Therefore, instead of having some sort of communal eating arrangement, the accommodation services say that meals will be delivered to each pilgrim individually in his or her hotel room, or in the tents. There won’t be any need for, nor any allowance given, to gathering in food halls. Hafidh Ibrahim said, “So, for the 60 000 Hujjaaj, around 80 companies will be catering their meals. They will be given three meals a day, prepacked with all the necessary hygiene requirements.” Serving the Hujjaj their meals in this fashion is also a consequence of the pandemic. Nevertheless, there might be Hujjaaj who will appreciate not having to stand in long lines to obtain a meal.

Umm Muhammed Umar

 

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