Scores of Muslims who had planned to take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage are likely to miss out if they don’t clear their travel expenses by the end of this month.
According to Sheikh Hassan Kirya, the chairperson Uganda Bureau of Hajj Affairs (UBHA), the Saudi authorities set May 31 as the deadline to submit all names and other particulars of people willing to visit the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina this year.
“They [Saudi authorities] are very strict this time round and they want us to send them all the names of pilgrims by the end of this month. Individuals whose details will not be in their data bank by the set deadline will not be considered for visa,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday
The UBHA is the local agency that secures visas for Ugandan pilgrims.
Although Sheikh Kirya declined to reveal the number of Ugandans who have so far fully paid for the trip, a source said the number was below 400 out of 1,500 slots offered to Uganda.
However, Sheikh Kirya expressed concern that the set deadline may leave out many potential pilgrims given the fact that some missed the previous year. Last year, only 900 Ugandan Muslims were cleared to participate in the annual Hajj rituals.
“In the past, our people used to clear every thing early enough, but because many are in business and they are not doing well, they pay in installments and some make a final decision at the eleventh hour which complicates our work,” he said
Each year, every country gets a Hajj quota depending on its Muslim population. Countries such as Indonesia and Nigeria which have bigger Muslim populations usually enjoy the lion’s share.
• In 2010, a total of 200 Muslim pilgrims missed the annual Hajj rituals over late registration.
•This year’s annual Hajj begins in September and will climax with the celebration of Idd -el-Adhuha expected to fall on October 4. A Muslim believer is required to make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime, but only after all worldly affairs have been settled. Hajj activities include going around the Kaa’bah and between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times.
• Over three million people go to Mecca each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for different people to network.