By Umm Muhammed Umar
In part three of Radio Islam’s daily segment, Build Up to the Hajj, with Hafidh Ibrahim Moosa, we focus on the cost of Hajj 1442. Due to the pandemic, there are only a limited number of packages that are available to Hujjaaj.
Hafidh Moosa said, “compared to normal circumstances, when people go for Hajj there would be thousands of different package options, because people are coming from different parts of the world, and in each country there would be different dynamics.” He adds, “There would be huge fluctuations in what people would typically be paying for Hajj, here it’s all coming from inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there are only going to be three packages that are going to be offered for Hajj this year.” According to Hafidh Ibrahim, there it is a significant rise in prices due to COVID precautions. So, for example, in the Mina Towers, which are not hotel rooms, per se, 14 people are able to share a room. However, this year it will be down to eight people per room, so that obviously increases the cost. Hafidh Ibrahim says that even regarding the buses, more buses than usual are needed for such a limited amount of people. He said, “So, there usually used to be about 50 people to a bus. Under the precautions there’s going to be 20 people to a bus. So that puts up the prices; and perhaps internal Saudi dynamics – take into consideration that there are also now taxes implemented in Saudi Arabia that were not necessarily implemented before.” The Hajj and Umrah industry in Saudi Arabia has also taken a battering, which also bears on the cost. Hafidh Ibrahim also said that the numbers of Hujjaj this year impacts the cost of the Hajj. He said, “There’s no mass discounts that will occur based on the number of pilgrims that would come from all over the world, so naturally the prices would be inflated because of that.”
The three levels of packages, and their costs are:
- The Hospitality Towers – these are people who are going to be housed in Mina Towers, for about SR16 500 or R64 000.
- The Special Hospitality Camps – these are expected to be something like special services, at SR14 300, or R56 000.
- Hospitality – probably just a basic camp, offered in tents. The tents are definitely going to be used this year, not just the Towers. The cost of this is R12000 or R47 000.
The major difference from last year is that in 2020 people who applied for the Hajj, were hosted for free. This year Hujjaaj are definitely going to be paying, and quite a high price. Hafidh Ibrahim says if compared with someone coming for Hajj from outside the Kingdom, who would have their airfare included normally in these prices, this year these are the prices for people who are already residing within the Kingdom.
In other Hajj news, Sheikh Bandar Baleela the Imam and Khatib of Haram in Makkah, has been appointed as the Khatib of Arafaah, Hajj 1442. Hafidh Ibrahim said that this follows the trend of recent years where there, there hasn’t been fixed Khatib, but one of the senior scholars in Saudi Arabia gives give the Khutbah.
Hafidh Ibrahim said, “The Malaysian government says that there are 200 Malaysians eligible to perform this year. They have been given permits. They are living within the kingdom, and they are going to be given a special zoom session with the Malaysian government on Saturday as to what’s required for them from the Saudi government.” He said that Saudi Arabia is now accepting that once travel opens for people from the outside, people will enter the Kingdom for Hajj and Urah. When that eventually happens, people will be allowed to take the Sinovac vaccine. This was apparently a concern to Malaysian pilgrims because those were preparing to come for Hajj this year undertaken vaccination already. They had taken the Sinovac vaccine, when the Saudi government earlier said that they were only accepting Hujjaaj inoculated with the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Saudi Arabia has since updated that and is now accepting Hujjaaj vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine as well as those who had the Sinopharm jab.
Further news is that Saudi Arabia has said that 500 health volunteers are being enlisted. Hafidh Ibrahim said, “The job is going to be performed to provide any medical assistance, to ensure that the protocols are covered, and give the necessary health guidance, and they’re going to be stationed, not only in Makkah, but in Medina too, and at various points along the journey.”
Saudi media has also reported that, for the first time, a Hajj security briefing has been headed by a female soldier by the name of Abeer Al-Rashed.