As we stand on the cusp of Eid Al Adha, Y brings you some interesting insights and little-known facts about the Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj.
A time for a spiritual journey to cleanse the body, mind, and soul: that’s what Eid Al Adha signifies in the Muslim world. For a handful of selected individuals, this is also the moment they’ve always dreamed of: a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Just this week, a staggering two million devotees will descend on Mecca to perform one of the five pillars of Islam: Hajj.
Today, Hajj is the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, and it requires those faithful to perform a set of rituals first performed by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) centuries ago.
While Muslims around the world strive hard to make their way to Mecca, only those who can perform the rituals can attend.
Moreover, it’s not mandatory for everyone to perform the pilgrimage, especially if they’re financially or physically challenged. In such cases, you can have someone perform the rituals on your behalf.
For those observing Eid Al Adha around the world and can’t perform Hajj, though, it’s also a day of sacrifice (Qurbani) to show their obedience and devotion to Allah.
But, there’s a lot that goes into the world’s most attended pilgrimage – and you know what that means: there’s a lot of fun facts we could learn about.
So, here are the top 5 fascinating facts about the Hajj that you probably didn’t know:
An astonishing 16,000 communication towers and 3,000 Wi-Fi hotspots have been set up in Mecca. No longer will you be required to wait until you get to your hotel or residence to connect with your loved ones back home. Oh, and for the first time ever, there’s a new initiative – ‘Smart Hajj’ – to provide pilgrims with helpful apps that can provide them with necessary information.
Let’s face it, you don’t want to be in direct sunlight; chances are that those attending Hajj aren’t too keen on the mid-August heat either. But Hajj has been made easier for pilgrims than ever before. Now, when you arrive in organised groups, you’re greeted by a/c buses and accommodation in starred-hotels, if you opt for them. Once you’re outside performing the rites, you’ll find that the courtyards are sheltered, walkways air-conditioned, and the marble floors cooled.
More than two million visitors turning up to a city at a given moment would normally spell disaster – but that’s not the case in Saudi Arabia. This year, a total of 1,535 flights carrying pilgrims are slated to land on Saudi soil, and more are expected to enter through land and sea. To deal with the dense traffic, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has employed an extra 16,000 people to guide the pilgrims from Mecca to Mount Arafat – a 20km long journey. Pilgrims can reach the foothills by bus, car, or rail, but those that prefer to walk can do so too.
Those travelling can opt for several packages. But, if you’re travelling from outside Saudi Arabia, you could be shelling out anywhere between US$800 (RO307) and US$1,600 (RO615). This has been mandated by the Saudi Hajj ministry. Nevertheless, you could be spending sums of above RO2,900 if you opt to arrive early and stay in starred hotels and be ferried in private buses. Don’t forget: as per the law, you cannot borrow money from anyone for Hajj either.
It’s not mandatory for every Muslim to perform Hajj. Those who find it hard to pay for their trip or are not physically fit for the pilgrimage are exempted from it. But, since Hajj coincides with Eid Al Adha, Muslims who cannot secure their trip to Mecca can sacrifice a large animal – mostly goats, sheep or cows – to signify the story of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah.