Manama: Mariah Marghani Mohammad, a 104-year-old woman from Indonesia performing Haj this year, is now the guest of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
The king gave instructions to include her in the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' Guests Programme to provide her with full care, the Saudi Press Agency (SAP) reported.
Her two neighbours who had vowed to look after her throughout their stay in Saudi Arabia have also been included in the VIP list to ensure that Mariah is comfortable and at ease.
In a brief statement, she expressed her “profound gratitude to King Salman for his generous hospitality and special care and attention” she has been receiving.
Mariah, the oldest among the 221,000 Indonesian would-be pilgrims this year, was welcomed with great fanfare upon her arrival in Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, the Minister of Culture and Information Awad Bin Saleh Al Awad decided to include her in the list of guests hosted by the ministry to ensure high levels of comfort and special care.
Mariah initially declined the offer, saying that she wanted to stay with her neighbours, a couple who had promised to look after her and to help her throughout the Haj rituals in and near Makkah and until their return home in Indonesia.
She said that she could not move away from them following their generous dedication to assist her and their commendable attitudes in treating her like their own mother.
The minister, noting her gratitude, ordered that the couple would also be included in the guest programme and ensure that the three neighbours stayed together.
Mohammad Hery Saripudin, Indonesia’s Consul General in Jeddah, last week said that Mariah was in good health and that she would be able to perform the rituals.
Indonesians make up the largest figure of foreigners arriving in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, based on a quota of 1,000 pilgrims per one million inhabitants Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country with approximately 202.9 million identifying themselves as Muslims.
The figure represented 87.2 per cent of the total population in 2011. According to Hery Saripudin, around one million Muslims are on waiting lists in Indonesia.
Haj this year starts on August 30 with the gathering of the more than two million pilgrims at the tent city of Mina in the outskirts of Makkah.
The ascent on Mount Arafat, also near Makkah, will be on August 31 and Eid Al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, will be celebrated by Muslims across the world on September 1.