Dubai: A group of 80 Dubai government employees flew to Saudi Arabia bound for Makkah on Friday for the upcoming Haj pilgrimage.
The Emirati public sector staff who hail from various departments left from Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport (DXB) through dedicated check-in, immigration and departure gates after being received at the airport by officials. The pilgrims were presented gifts, refreshments and given basic health checks.
Dedicated Haj flights from Dubai, operated by four carriers, began on July 31 for the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia.
So far, a total of roughly 500 pilgrims have flown out from all three Dubai terminals, Mohammad Al Marzouqi, head of operations at Terminal 2 and head of the Hajj committee at Dubai Airports, told Gulf News.
Around 2,400 Emirati pilgrims are expected to fly from Dubai until August 8, comprising around half of all Emirati pilgrims this year. Expats normally leave for Haj from their own countries as rules state they have to apply for visas and depart from their place of origin.
As the pilgrims arrived at Terminal 3 on Friday morning, they were received by officials from various UAE government entities, including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services. They were presented gifts, including a Haj kit with around a dozen items such as sun screen, a small head-mounted umbrella for shade, a metal water bottle and accessories belt.
Al Marzouqi said there was an overwhelming response from entities wishing to participate in providing services and gifts for the pilgrims at the airport, adding that more entities will be accommodated next year.
“The pilgrim-passengers are very happy with the arrangements; we’ve met their expectations fully. The challenge is to raise the expectations even higher next year,” he added.
Pilgrims also availed of basic medical checks such as blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Badr Al Najjar, director of internal audit and head of the Haj committee at the Ministry of Health and Prevention, said the pilgrims’ health readings are found to be within normal levels “99.9 per cent” of the time, adding that they are provided medical advice if needed.
Some of the pilgrims were going on their first Haj, which is a once in a lifetime obligation for Muslims who are physically and financially able to undertake it.
Mohammad Abbas Al Baloushi, an Emirati employee in immigration services in Dubai, said he was glad to be going on his first Haj, accompanied by his relative Marwan Sabeel Al Baloushi, who also works in immigration.
“The reception at the airport is so nice for pilgrims, it makes us very happy. I feel good to be going for Haj, which will be my first,” Al Baloushi said.
Another first-time Haj pilgrim, Mohammad Al Shehy, also said the arrangements at the airport were “very good”. Al Shehy, who works in public prosecution, added: “I’ve waited years for this day and it’s finally here. Going with a group like this is especially nice. It’s a great feeling and I wish a pleasant and accepted Hajj for all.”
Al Najjar said a further 220 or so pilgrims, traveling separately, were scheduled to leave for Haj on Friday afternoon from Terminal 3.