Pilgrims are received by their loved ones at Dubai International Airport. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Hundreds of UAE pilgrims started returning home on Friday after performing Haj in Makkah and they arrived to warm welcomes by loved ones and airport officials.

In Dubai, the first return flights from the Saudi port city of Jeddah started landing after midday at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 1 and 2.

The annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites had ended on Thursday. This year, almost 5,000 residents, mostly Emiratis, had gone on Haj from the UAE.

The pilgrimage this year passed without any major incident. Last year, hundreds of pilgrims had died in a huge crush.

Pilgrims who arrived in Dubai on Friday said they were delighted to have successfully completed the pilgrimage and to be reunited with their families.

Many families were seen eagerly awaiting the pilgrims’ return. Many children carrying flowers rushed to greet the pilgrims as they emerged from the arrival gates.

Emirati pilgrim Ahmad Al Mulla said: “This was my fifth Haj, and it was the best one so far. Everything was perfect. The arrangements by the Haj operator I went with, as well as by the Saudi government there, were very good. I hope to do Haj again, God willing.”

Another Emirati, Rashid Al Ali, said he was “happy to be back” after the Haj, which was his fourth.

“Everything went smoothly. The arrangements there were good. But there had been a long wait at Jeddah airport while going to Haj. In Dubai, the facilities are so good for pilgrims at the airport,” Al Ali added.

First-time pilgrim Saleh Al Jabri, also Emirati, said he had a trouble-free Haj. “It was not more difficult or easier than I was expecting. Everything went well,” he added.

There were special arrangements for receiving the pilgrims in Dubai, said Mohammad Al Marzouqi, head of the Haj Committee at Dubai International Airport.

“We are always keen to welcome back the Hajis [pilgrims], offering them sweets and flowers at a dedicated area for them. Their baggage is offloaded from dedicated belts and their Zamzam water containers [sacred water from Makkah] are kept ready for pick-up. What’s more, they are not charged exit fees when leaving the car park,” Al Marzouqi, who also heads baggage operations, said.

On Friday, a total of around 800 pilgrims were scheduled to return on around four flights, Al Marzouqi added. More pilgrims are expected on Saturday, with more than 2,500 in total scheduled to return through Dubai.

Abu Dhabi Airports also welcomed back pilgrims on Friday. Special arrangements were in place at Abu Dhabi International Airport, including welcome refreshments and specific arrival procedures to handle those returning with Zamzam water, and a team of Takatof volunteers were on hand to help out. Over 700 pilgrims are expected to return to Abu Dhabi International Airport over the course of the next few days.

Pilgrims from the UAE had also been provided special fast-track arrangements when they flew out of the country at the beginning of the month.