400 Hajis pay SR100,000 each for five-star pilgrimage

September 04, 2017

Naeem Tamim Al-Hakim

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

MINA — A substantial number of pilgrims, mostly top-class businessmen and businesswomen, celebrities and politicians, avail five-star Haj services as they stay in five-star hotels in Makkah and Madinah, posh tents with marvelous facilities close to the Jamarat in Mina and travel in luxury buses.

“These five-star tents are located close to ordinary tents in Mina,” said a tourism company official who requested anonymity. “The area belongs to pilgrims from the same country but the facilities and services differ from one another, reaching the level of extravagance,” he added.

A single pilgrim has to pay SR80,000 to SR100,000 for the services.

The five-star tents in Mina are guarded by security officers in order to prevent strangers from entering the place and ensure protection of guests. The tents’ floors are made of glittering tiles while their inside is decorated with flowers and colorful lights. Special carts are provided to carry the old and sick among these pilgrims to the Jamarat for the stoning ritual.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette visited one of these five-star tents at the area allocated for Egyptian pilgrims. The five-star tents took us to a different world of pomp and pageantry. One can see luxurious sofas at the entrance, chairs for resting and massage and luxurious beds and furniture.

There is a spacious canteen in the middle to supply various types of food around the clock. Male and female attendants have been appointed to serve the guests of five-star Haj and they distribute juices, cakes and other delicious and highly expensive meals and drinks.

During the Haj season, more than 300-chartered flights transport rich pilgrims from around the world, especially from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Morocco and GCC countries to Makkah.

Ashraf Shaiha, supervisor of the tourism company that extends five-star services to rich pilgrims, said the number of such pilgrims would not reach 400.

“Our main guests are businessmen and celebrities and we focus on the quality of service,” he told Okaz/Saudi Gazette. “Most of our guests come to the holy sites on special flights.”

These pilgrims arrive in Madinah on the seventh of Dul Hijja. They spend one night in the holy city before proceeding to Makkah the next day to perform Umrah (tawaf and sa’i). On the ninth of Dul Hijja they move to Arafat to attend the standing in prayer ritual. In Arafat they stay in specially arranged luxurious tents that offer five-star hotel facilities.

As these pilgrims want to depart early they will leave Muzdalifah after 12 midnight to perform the stoning ritual at Jamarat. The same night they will go to the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform Tawaf Al-Ifada. They return to their five-star hotels just before Subahi prayer.

Speaking about arrangements for the stay of these pilgrims in Mina, Shaiha said: “They will not stay in Mina for three days like other pilgrims because of their business and administrative engagements and they stay there only for two days and leave after 12 midnight the next day.

These pilgrims stay in five-star hotels located close to the Grand Mosque in Makkah. They hear an Islamic lecture by a top-class scholar, who usually appears on satellite channels, while they take their dinner. They also listen to the Qur’an recitation by famous reciters. After performing the stoning ritual in Jamarat on the second day they leave for their hotels.

On the second day of Eid, guests of five-star Haj return to Mina and stay there until midnight when they move to Jamarat and perform the stoning rites, following the fatwas or religious rulings issued by Islamic scholars. Some of them go to the Grand Mosque to perform Tawaf Al-Wida while another group stay in their hotels for one more day. All of them leave on Dul Hijja 14 on special flights.

Osama Faqeeh, supervisor of catering at five-star tents, said the cost of catering for a night would reach more than SR400,000. The company will charge SR2.6 million for four nights for 400 pilgrims.

“We appoint expert cooks from five nationalities to serve these guests. Cooks comes from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and the Philippines,” Faqeeh added.

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