Wafa Ali (centre) with her mother (left) and sister (right), all returning from Hajj, at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The first set of more than 2,750 Haj pilgrims from the UAE returned on Thursday and were greeted by their loved ones.

Tired but happy, the pilgrims had a chance to savour some dates, chocolates and Arabic coffee at Abu Dhabi International Airport before heading home for some much-needed rest.

“I am delighted that I have been able to fulfil a major pillar of Islam, that too while accompanying my mother on her third pilgrimage. Today is a happy day,” Maal Allah Al Hammadi, an Emirati security official, told Gulf News.

Al Hammadi was greeted by nearly a dozen family members and he rushed to hug his five-month-old son at the airport’s arrivals lounge.

Nearby, Wafa Ali embraced waiting family members. The 43-year-old Emirati performed the pilgrimage for the first time this year, accompanied by her husband, mother, brother, sister-in-law and uncle.

“Haj is supposed to be arduous, but with Allah’s mercy, it all felt really easy. Rain came as a blessing while we were on the hot plains of Arafah, and I am overwhelmed with happiness because we’ve been able to complete this rite [of Haj],” Ali said. The mother-of-four added that she had missed her children, who had stayed behind in the UAE with their extended family.

Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and healthy adults are urged to perform it at least once in their lifetime if they have the required financial and physical means. This year, the major rituals of Haj, including the day of Arafah and the sacrifice of Eid Al Adha, were performed between August 9 and 13.

A number of other flights will bring in the rest of the UAE pilgrims home over the weekend. A statement from the airport added that an additional 25,000 pilgrims were expected to be transiting through the capital’s airport as they return home from the Saudi Arabian cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah.

Sulaiman Al Mehri, a chemical engineer, was nearly lost for words when asked to describe his Hajj experience.

“I don’t know if anyone can do justice to this experience. I can just say it was unbelievable. It rained nearly every day, and we felt none of the summer heat. It was the perfect opportunity to worship Allah,” he said.