Emarati pilgrims departing from Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3, on Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia on in August last year. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Haj packages are priced 50 per cent lower compared to last year for UAE pilgrims, according to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, the UAE’s official body responsible for overseeing the country’s Haj services.

Over 6,200 Emiratis are expected to perform Haj in Saudi Arabia later this month as part of the UAE’s official national quota number for the pilgrimage.

Like last year, permits to perform the pilgrimage were issued only to Emirati citizens, as expatriates had to receive their Haj permits from their home countries. Haj is a religious pilgrimage performed by Muslim adherents at least once in their life if they can afford the trip to Makkah and if they are able bodied. The new rule was implemented last year under the directives of the Saudi authorities with the regulation applying to all countries.

“The UAE leadership is always eager to improve the services for the UAE’s Haj convoy and to make our pilgrims happy and to ensure that everything is easy for them. This year, we formed a committee early on to start our preparations and to make sure everything was ready for the UAE pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia,” said Mohammad Mattar Al Kaabi, chairman for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

“The total number of pilgrims from the UAE this year is 6,228, they will all be together in the UAE camp, which is a dedicated area just for Emirati pilgrims. The UAE convoy will be going to three places during the Haj — Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah,” he added.

Commenting on the price packages, Al Kaabi said that prices have been reduced to make Haj more affordable.

“The prices for Haj packages this year have been decreased by 50 per cent compared to the year before, we want to have more price reductions for next year as well.”

Al Kaabi also said the authority would have monitors at the UAE camp and with the pilgrims to ensure that all services were up to standard.

“There will be a monitoring committee that will be going with the UAE Haj convoy; their job is to check that everything in the UAE complex such as tents and accommodation are all okay and satisfactory for our pilgrims. We are going to receive daily reports and will be closely following up on any issues. If any pilgrim has any complaints, we will receive them directly.

“Our main goal is to focus on ensuring the satisfaction of our pilgrims. We have already carried out a survey asking them for their opinions and until now the satisfaction rate we have is at 96 per cent. We are pushing to eventually reach a satisfaction rate of 100 per cent,” he added.

Al Kaabi said there are more than 100 licensed Haj operators this year, with the authority instructing the operators to have a doctor and cleric with them.

“Each operator will have a doctor along with them in case there is any medical emergencies. The operators will also be accompanied by an Islamic scholar who will provide information to the pilgrims about Haj, its locations, and all the rites that are being performed.”

Haj operators confident

Haj operators taking Emirati pilgrims to Saudi Arabia say they are confident of a successful pilgrimage this year.

“We are taking up to 150 Emiratis for Haj this year, with our packages priced from Dh24,000. There are different price packages depending on each category — for example, the hotel star rating, how close or far it is from the Masjid Al Haram (Grand Mosque of Makkah), and the type of air transport you take. There are private jet options if some pilgrims want to fly out that way and this will obviously cost more,” said Mohammad Nasrleldin, executive manager at Al Tanweer Haj and Umrah.

“Everything has been well planned and organised so we don’t expect to encounter any problems. The management from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments is very good, we have a very good communication with them, and the same with the Saudi authorities,” he added.

Another Haj operator, Al Marwah Haj and Umrah, said that they were taking 175 Emirati pilgrims as part of their VIP programme.

“We have a VIP Haj package with private flights and five star hotels, with packages priced from Dh55,000 going up to Dh73,000. We have 175 Emirati pilgrims in total with us,” said Jamal Latayfeh, the company’s director.

“There is a lot of planning and preparation that we do to make sure everything goes smoothly and so we don’t have any worries. The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments gives us instructions that we have to follow and we act on them accordingly,” he added.


Get vaccinated before trip

The Dubai Health Authority has called on pilgrims to keep their health in mind to ensure a safe trip and to get vaccinated before making the journey to prevent the spread of diseases or getting infected.

“Pilgrims must take all preventive measures that will keep them safe and healthy during Haj, which is why we advise them to take the necessary vaccinations that include seasonal flu and meningococcal vaccines at least 10 to 15 days before embarking on their Haj trips. These vaccinations, which can be taken at the authority’s primary health care centres will protect them from potential infectious diseases,” said Dr Ahmad Saleh, consultant in infections and head of infection control at Rashid Hospital.

Dr Selma Eisa Hago Dawd, internist specialist at Dubai Hospital, added that it is important to take precautionary steps ahead of Haj especially for the elderly and those who have chronic diseases.

“The elderly and people with chronic diseases should first go to their doctor who will evaluate their health before giving them the approval to go. They must take all their medication prescribed during the duration of Haj and take extra medication with them in case.

“They should also wear a bracelet or keep a card on them at all times with their name, contact number, health condition and medication in case of an emergency,” she added.

Sharjah airport ready for Haj

The Sharjah Airport Authority (SAA) announced that it has completed preparations for the peak of the travel season and an expected influx of Haj pilgrims, said officials on Tuesday.

Sharjah Airport, which is expecting to receive more than 1.1 million passengers on both scheduled and non-scheduled flights this August, has finalised arrangements for all procedures needed to ensure a comfortable travel experience for pilgrims, families, and all other passengers.

The SAA expects air traffic at the airport to increase this month because some airlines operate additional flights in order to accommodate the increased demand for travel over the Eid Al Adha holiday.