Visit To Saudi Arabia


HAJ 1997, UMRAH 2004& HAJ 2013

Every year the Government of India sends a goodwill delegation on the occasion of the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. This delegation consists of eminent Muslim personalities representing various walks of life like Ministers, Politicians, Journalists and other dignitaries. Along with the delegation a member secretary also accompanies the delegation. The member secretary is selected from amongst serving senior government officers. Generally they are IAS or IPS officers but officers from other services have also been selected. During the last year (1996) of Narsimha Rao government I applied to go with delegation as a member secretary. My name was cleared at various stages but when the list of delegation finally reached for approval of the Prime Minister I learnt that my name was directly removed and name of Rajan Habib Khawaja an IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh was included as member secretary. He perhaps used one of the MPs from Andhra Pradesh to push his name in which he succeeded. I was crestfallen. I decided to try on another occasion. When H.D. Devegowda became the Prime Minister his most trusted associate was Chand Mal Ibrahim who was the Civil Aviation Minister. I was acquainted with him. At the time of preparation of Haj delegation in 1997 I met him and requested for my selection as the member secretary. He promised that my name would be included. This time again when my name crossed certain stage another IAS officer and one IPS officer both belonging to Bihar Cadre approached the Government for inclusion of their names in place of my name. I was also apprehensive about the outcome. But this year Allah invited me and my name remained as member secretary. The delegation was to be headed by Saifuddin Soz, Minister for Environment and Forest, Government of India. He had some official pre-occupation in some other foreign country. Though coordination meeting was held in his office but ultimately Maqbool Dar, Minister for State, Home Affairs Government of India was made the leader of the delegation. There were other members from Kashmir, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Haroon Rasheed, Anwar Ahmad and Abbas Zameer were from Bihar. The delegation flew from Delhi Airport and reached Bombay. At Bombay the entire delegation stayed at the Hotel Centaur. Next morning before boarding the flight we changed our clothes and wrapped up unstitched white Ahram clothes. The flight was quite inspiring as all the passengers were on Haj pilgrimage. During the flight I was requested by Air India staff to translate the statement about Halal food being served in the flight. I addressed the passengers and told them that the statement of the Air India mentions that the food is Halal.

We reached Jeddah. The Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Hamid Ansari, who later became Vice-President of India, received us at the airport. Counsul General of India in Jeddah, Afzal Amanullah, IAS and representatives of the Government of Saudi Arabia were also at airport to welcome us. We were taken to Hotel Trident where we were given information about Haj programme. After one night stay at Jeddah we were taken to Makkah. There we stayed at Hotel Aiyad Makka just adjacent to holy Kaba. During five times prayers the lines of worshippers came to the space of the hotel. In Kaba people offer namaz in circles surrounding the Kaba. Kaba is the direction to offer namaz from throughout the world. Several million Muslims from all over the world assemble at Makkah on the occasion of Haj. Before the pilgrim undertakes Haj itinery he has to do Umrah by encircling the Kaba seven times and brisk walking between Safa and Marwah also seven times. Kaba was established as the house of Allah after removing idols from it. Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismael not only established the Kaba but also set an example of sacrifice for Allah. From Makkah we went to Arafat. It is a very big open area and well developed for Haj pilgrimage. There we offered our Namaz. Here at the hill Prophet Mohammad had delivered his last sermon and exhorted the Muslims throughout the world to come for Haj pilgrimage and follow the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim. At sunset we proceeded for Muzdalifa. It was night and open sky for pilgrims. There we spent night by offering prayers. We picked up small pebbles for using them to hit the column of Satan at Meena. At dawn break we proceeded for Meena. After putting our luggage in a hotel I went to offer namaz at nearby Masjid-e-Kaif. Meena on the occasion of Haj pilgrimage is converted into a sea of tents. While offering namaz I saw smoke billowing. Later, I learnt that gas cylinder in a Pakistani tent had exploded. The fire quickly spread to other tents. The services of helicopter and ambulance services were pressed into service for rescue. After completion of my namaz when I reached the hotel where the Indian delegation was staying there was chaos and everybody was on the run. My wife and some other members of the delegation complained to me about my late coming as they received instructions from Saudi authorities to immediately vacate Meena. I saw a bus of India mission standing outside the hotel. I found that the women family members of the Indian staff working in the Indian mission in Jeddah and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia boarded the bus and sped away. Nobody of Indian mission cared to accommodate at least some old women members of the Haj delegation. Like millions of Hajis we marched towards Makkah located about fifteen kilometers carrying our luggage on our shoulders. Even Ambassador Hamid Ansari and former Secretary to Government of India Moosa Raza and all others were fleeing with their luggage on their shoulders. We were cautioned to be away from stampede. Somehow we reached Makkah and reached our respective rooms at the hotel. I realized that fire in Meena must be known by now throughout the world. I rang up a relative who was working as medical doctor at Jeddah to inform my relations about safety of the delegation in Patna and also at Delhi. I also requested the Indian mission to allow all the members of the Haj delegation to convey their safety through international call at the hotel. This was arranged immediately. That night we stayed at the hotel at Makkah though we should have spent the night at Meena as per Haj ritual. However, in late night I saw PM Sayeed, MP leaving the hotel along with his family to Meena. Except him all of us remained at Makkah. The next morning we again went to Meena and stayed there. There as per ritual we stoned the three concrete columns of Shaitan. As this is done at specified time this small passage is crowded with millions of pilgrims. There are pilgrims from Africa and other countries where the people are well built. Other pilgrims are pushed over. Stamped also takes place. Whoever falls is crushed and killed. Thus one has to be very cautious in that area. At this place stampede occurred in 2015 in which about 1,500 pilgrims were killed.  The Shaitans are stoned as they had tried to dissuade Prophet Ibrahim from sacrificing his son Prophet Ismail. As per belief when Prophet Ibrahim put knife on the throat of his son to obey the order of Allah an angel removed his son and put a goat in his place to sacrifice him. Prophet Ibrahim blind folded slaughtered the goat thinking that he was sacrificing his own son. He had passed the examination of Allah. The Haj is among the five essentials of Islam. Haj is performed to remember this sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail. The other four are, Kalma believing in oneness of Allah and Prophet Mohammad to be messenger of Allah, Namaz prayer of five times daily, Roza fasting for one month and Zakat charity.

After stoning the columns of Shaitan one of the members of the delegation Md. Shamin, Judge of Delhi High Court went missing. His wife started shouting, screaming and urging people to find him out. For some hours I contacted officials and visited some places in Meena but no traces of his were known. In the night I rang up his room in the hotel and he was there. The entire delegation expressed sigh of relief. They also criticized him for not informing the Haj delegation and his wife about his where about.

After completion of Haj we came to Makkah and again offered Umrah. From there we went to Medina.

Medina became prominent when Prophet Mohammad migrated to Medina after facing atrocities from people of Makkah when he started teachings of Islam. He built a mosque, which is called Masjid-e-Nabvi. There I offered five times namaz in congregation continuously for eight days and established a ritual of performing namaz for continuous forty times. I used to go to the mosque at the time of prayer and used of stay put and use to move to strategic places like the place where Balal used to announce Azan during the time of the prophet. I also used to sit around the mausoleum of Prophet Mohammad. My room was facing the mosque. We were staying at the hotel Oberoi Medina. Begum Hasina Wajid Prime Minister of Bangaldesh was also staying in the same hotel. I used to have vivid scene of the mosque at different times. Even the opening and closing of the magnificent umbrellas was lovely scene to watch at. After completion of Haj and stay at Medina we went to Jeddah again. There we boarded return Air India flight and reached New Delhi after achieving and full filling a great mission of life.

I had visited Saudi Arabia in 1997 to perform Hajj. Since then I had prayed to visit again to perform Umrah or Hajj. In 2004 I again got an opportunity. I along with my mother arrived at Dammam airport by Air India flight AI 819 from Delhi on the 16th April 2004. My sister Zinat Jahan and her husband Faisal Sultan who worked in petrokemya unit of Saudi Arabia Basic Industry Corporation (SABIC) received us. We lived at their house at Al-Jubail, one of the biggest industrial cities of Asia. Eastern province of Saudi Arabia is important due to location of large number of oil wells and petrochemical plants in the region. On its periphery on the banks of Arabian Sea are located several smaller countries like Bahrain and Kuwait, etc. I went to Bahrain border in the evening of 18th April. One of the most spectacular road bridge construction projects in the world is the King Fahd causeway linking Bahrain with mainlandofSaudi Arabia. The four-lane bridge, opened in 1986 is about 26 km long and is truly a modern day wonder. Built at the cost of $1.2 billion, financed entirely by Saudi Arabia, the causeway opened up Bahrain for trade and tourism from the huge Saudi market. At the border I could see the red tower of Bahrain. I went up on the top of the green tower of Saudi Arabia side and saw the intense lightning in the area. As I had single entry visit visa for Saudi Arabia I did not cross over the border. On return journey I saw the glittering shopping Rashid malls at Al-Khobar, a modern city. I learnt that all shopping malls have a place for mosque in their buildings. These shopping malls reminded me about malls of Europe and America. We took dinner at Bundu Khan Restaurant popular among people of Indian sub-continent.

I was staying at Jubail at the building facing the sea front. The commercial port of Jubail was located in the area. The seashore has been developed as cornices for outing for family. Even in mid night this area is safe for women. Men wanting to go there without women of their family are not allowed. I also visited Royal Commission of Jubail area. It is government headquarters of the area. Jubail industrial city is famous for production of petrochemical products like raw material for production of polythene bags. There is a big iron and steel plant in the area. The area is very neat and clean.  They are modern units.

In Jubail Industrial city I could see several industrial plants from outside, as there is very tight security at the industrial area. The prominent plants I saw were Petrokemya, United, Sadaf and Sasref Refinery (joint venture of Shell and Aramco). Main products of petrochemical plants in Sabic are Ethylene, Poly vinyl chloride (PVC), Polystyrene, Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), Ethyl Glycol, etc. Sadaf plant was surrounded by Saudi army with light and heavy artery due to having share with American companies. It was obvious everywhere that Americans and Europeans were unwelcomed in Saudi Arabia except by the government. They were not safe either at industrial area or at their isolated and walled colonies. The American foreign policy has endangered life of Americans citizens in most of the third world countries.

In the night of 3rd May NRIs particularly belonging to Bihar, Lucknow and Hyderabad organized a dinner in my honour at Sabic resort camp on the bank of sea. Three poets recited their poems on the occasion also. The people welcomed me amongst them. I also reciprocated by saying about their contribution in building economic and social life of India. They all have to go back sooner or later to India as there is no provision for settling down in Saudi Arabia. I found NRIs fondness for their origin in India.  I was happy to see that at least outside India the Indians are united. The non-resident Indians like doctors, engineers, technicians, managers and even labourers live in complete harmony with total Indian solidarity.

On 22nd April from Jubail we drove to Dammam airport where we boarded Saudi Arabian Airlines in the morning. The flight took off at 8 o’clock morning and arrived at Jeddah at 10 am. This was the first time that I fly by Saudi Arabian airlines. During the long domestic flight I saw the hilly and mountainous terrain of Saudi Arabia. Before reaching Jeddah the plane fly over Miqat, the point where Umrah and Haj pilgrims have to wear unstitched two-piece ahram clothes and make intention of doing Umrah  at Makkah. But I wrapped up the clothes at Al-Jabail itself and had offered two raket nafil namaz prayer required for making intention of performing Umrah.

After landing at Jeddah airport we drove straight to Makkah. There we stayed at hotel Daral Salam, located opposite the Kaaba Haram. After putting our luggage at the hotel we immediately went to Kaaba. There we could perform Tawaf of Kaaba comfortably at mid noon. I could even kiss Aswad stone, embedded in the corner of Kaaba, which I could not do during my Hajj in 1997. I did perform Saee by walking seven times between Safa and Marwah. Prophet Ibrahim’s wife Hajra had to run seven times in search of water for her infant child Ismail. On her seventh run she found water in desert oozing out from the place where Ismail was rubbing his feet due to thirst. I tried to attend namaz in congregation.  At night we spent time in Haram and around it. In the morning I missed congregation namaz of Fajir. But I went to Kaaba and offered namaz. I again got opportunity of kissing Aswad stone. As per Islamic faith it came from the heaven. I participated in Friday namaz prayer also. The entire Haram complex and outside was filled to capacity. The prayer was live telecast. On 23rd April after Friday prayer I returned to Jeddah. On 24th April I visited sea front of Jeddah. The spring fountain in the red sea reminded me of the spring of Lake Geneva. I saw the illuminated palaces of royal families from a distance.

On 25th April we again went to Makkah. I went to Masjid Aisha where I wore Ahram and made intention of doing Umrah in name of my father Mallik Mohamad whowas both old and ill. From there I went to Kaaba and performed seven Tawafs of Kaaba. I again got opportunity of kissing Aswad stone. I consumed lot of Zamzam water. I performed Saae by brisk walking between Safa and Marva. We also visited religious places like Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat. Later we drove down to Jeddah.

On 26th April we remained at Jeddah and saw beautiful township in the night. On 27th April we took taxi from Jeddah and reached Madina within four hours, a distance of about four hundred kilometers. There we stayed at hotel Hilton Madina. There we stayed for two nights and three days. We attended all namaz in congregation at Masjid Nabvi, the mosque built by Prophet Mohammad. I offered namaz at the place where Hazart Bilal used to call Azan. I also offered namaz adjacent to the mousoleum of Prophet Mohammad.  I also offered namaz at the spot where the prophet used to lead the prayer. I also offered namaz at Masjid Quba, first mosque built by the prophet on Hijrat, migration to Madina. I also offered namaz at Masjid-e-Qibletain, mosque with two directions to offer namaz. On 25th April we returned by Saudi Arabian Airlines from Madina to Jeddah in thirty-five minutes flying time.

I always intended to visit Riyadh, Capital of Saudi Arabia. Its location in hinterland makes the visit only intentional and not enroute as in case of Jeddah or other places. On 2nd May I took Saudi Arabian Airlines flight at 10 o’clock from Dammam airport and reached Riyadh at 11 o’clock. There, Perwez Mallik of Dhanbad received me. The airport’s most striking sign was its magnificent mosque. After about forty kilometers drive through the city I arrived at my place of stay. Next morning I undertook whirlwind tour of the city and surrounding area. Riyadh has been capital even before unification of Saudi Arabia by King Saud and King Abdul Aziz. Efforts have been made to protect its old identity by giving mud plaster on buildings. There are still several mud houses in the heart of old city area, where offices of Governorate and high court are located, which also display typical mud appearance. Inside the buildings it is fully modern structure and furnishing. I saw from outside the compound the palaces of the king and princes located on one side of the city. They are highly protected premises. Nearby is the diplomatic area. There also most of the diplomatic buildings show the architecture and design and image of the Saudi Arabian buildings. I visited the embassy of India at Riyadh. Kamaluddin Ahamad was the Indian Ambassador. There were lots of Indians in the embassy for getting their different works done. Riyadh has several modern tall towers having shopping malls, corporate and business offices.  The newly built Kingdom Tower has unique structure on the top to make it different from other tall towers in the world. I was told that most of the modern buildings, including towers and palaces have been constructed under total consultancy provided by French and other western firms. The people say that these firms have total control over finalizing contracts at all levels. They also charge astronomical charges in comparison to Asian construction and engineering firms. But the government policy is to preferably engage western firms only. I also saw the International Indian School at Jeddah. I was told that about nine thousands students study there. The other branches of the school are located at cities like Jeddah, Dammam and Jubail. They have adopted CBSE curriculum of India. Indian boys and girls attend their classes separately as per Saudi Arabian culture. At Riyadh I visited the headquarter of Saline Water Conversion Company. SWCC is producing sweet water from Arabian Sea. Asia’s largest water refinery is located in Saudi Arabia. The SWCC has adopted the best technology of the world, named reverse osmosis technology for conversion of seawater into sweet water. The quality of water supplied to homes and industries is of high order. Jubail sea front supplies water by pipes to Riyadh and other areas on the eastern side. The sea front north of Jeddah near Madina is source of water supply for places in the north and west regions of Saudi Arabia. The supply of water is an important duty of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On 3rd May I took return Saudi Arabian flight at 7.35 pm and reached Dammam airport after one hour flight. I noticed one unique feature on Saudi Arabian domestic flights. Some Saudi Arabian passengers have a habit ofoccupying seats of their own choice. They do not occupy seats allotted to them on their boarding passes. By the time we boarded the flight other Saudi passengers occupied our seats. The cabin crew and airhostess were also helpless. In my first domestic flight I got the seat vacated. But then on wards I reconciled to the culture and started occupying any other vacant seat shown by the airhostess. Saudi Arabian people have to travel much by air. There is only one rail link between Dammam and Riyadh. Rest of the kingdom is connected by road only. But due to its large size and mountain terrain road journey is inconvenient and time consuming. But roads are multiple lane and world class. The people are in habit of driving at 120 km/hr to 150 km/hr. The government is considering construction of rail link between Jeddah, Makkah and Madina. It is certainly most needed.

HAJ 2013

I went to Saudi Arabia for performance of Haj in 1997 as member-secretary of goodwill delegation of Government of India. Again I went there in 2004 for performance of Umrah.  In 2013 I along with my sister Ronaque Jahan undertook Haj pilgrimage. This time I performed Haj rituals in name of our father late Mallick Mohammad while my sister performed Haj rituals in name of our mother late NasimaKhatoon who passed away on 22nd February and 27th March respectively in 2012.

This time we booked the pilgrimage through Haj Committee of India which organizes longer duration pilgrimage at little cheaper rate than the tours organized by private tour operators. There are two categories, Green and Azizia. Under Green category accommodation at Makkah is arranged within distance of 1500 meters from Kaaba, the Haram mosque. Beyond that distance the arrangement for accommodation is made under Azizia category. For package under Green category for two persons we paid Rs. 3,56,000. Out of the total pilgrimage package for one person the cost of accommodation for Green category at Makkah was SAR 4,500 while for Azizia category it was SAR 2,630 including transportation for latter category. The cost of accommodation at Madina was uniform SAR 500. However, the facilities provided to both categories were uniform at all places, Makkah, Madina, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa.

We boarded Air India flight AI 5907 from Bodh Gaya to Medina on 19th September 2013. Before departure from India we were given identification number BRF-349-2-0 and a  bracelet  by the Haj Committee of India. Once we landed at Madina we were taken over by representative of our earmarked Muallim, MuttawiffRidwan Ahmed Showdari of Makkah-Al-Khalidia whose office is located opposite Al-Muhajrein Mosque in Makkah. The Muallims are like corporate chiefs who are rich and powerful people. Their organizations make contracts with Haj Committees of different countries for providing to pilgrims the facilities of accommodation, food at Mina-Arafat-Muzdalifa (not at Makkah and Madina), transportation and liaison with Saudi Arab government agencies. The office of Consul General of India at Jeddah with branch offices at Makkah and Madina and camp offices at Mina also supervises the arrangements.

Just before start of Haj rituals we could go to Jeddah to meet our sister Zinat, her husband Faisal Sultan and their daughter Aysha who lived at Al-Jubail. We stayed with them for a night. They also arranged car for our use for visiting Miqat outside Makkah for performance of Umrah.

The schedule of performance of Haj ritual remains the same every year. It is strictly followed with full sincerity and commitment. After pilgrimage of about 45 days we landed at Bodh Gaya airport and returned home to Patna.

In the present pilgrimage I tried to evaluate the various arrangements critically from safety and comfort points of views. I have divided the short comings in arrangements among Haj Committee of India, Consul General of India under Ministry of External Affairs and the Government of Kingdom of Saudi Arab. I used to send report on hardship faced by Haj pilgrims to Urdu newspapers of Patna. I think little was published. Later when I spoke to the editor of an Urdu daily I was told that adverse news would discourage the people who would embark on Haj pilgrimage. I told him that if short comings are exposed and corrective measures taken now then in future they would have comfortable pilgrimage. None of the three authorities took corrective measures resulting in incidents of large casualities of life of pilgrims in subsequent years either in stampede during stoning of Jamarat at Mina or crushed by falling of cranes hanging over complex of Haram Kaaba  besides their discomfort in accommodation, food and transport.

Role of Haj Committee of India :

The Haj Committee of India is primarily responsible for organizing pilgrimage. Its members and officials keep on visiting Saudi Arabia almost throughout the year. It is said that that they get bribe at every stage of arrangement.

The following are few shortcomings in respect of transportation of pilgrims :

1.Azizia-Kaaba : The pilgrims staying at Azizia faced hardship in reaching Haram Kaaba. Their package included bus passes for to and fro travel between their accommodation and Haram Kaaba. But this facility was stopped from the 4th day to 13th day of Eid-uz-zoha. Some of the accommodations were located as far away as 5 to 8 kms. They had to come to Haram Kaaba by taxi paying SAR 30 for one way travel. Some of them preferred to offer namaz in mosques in their areas itself.

  1. Tawafe Ziarat : The pilgrims faced hardship in travelling from Mina to Makkah for doing Tawafe Ziyarat at Kaaba. The top point of Haj day, that is 9thZilhijja, is spending day at valley of Arafat in designated area, then move to Muzdalifa to spend night there. After that the pilgrim comes back to Mina on 10thZilhijja morning where he hits the pillar of large satan, Jamarat, with seven pebbles (kankari). After that Qurbani, sacrifice of the goat or camel is done which function is almost fully entrusted to agency of the government which organizes sacrifice without presence of the pilgrim. After that the pilgrim has to get hair of his head shaven of, called Halaq. After that Tawafe Ziarat has to be performed at Kaaba Haram as soon as possible between 10thZilhijja to afternoon of 12thZilhijja, preferably on 10th itself. During the period no facility of transport was arranged for going to Makkah. The pilgrims had to walk down 8 kms on road to reach Makkah. Due to tiring movements in last few days the pilgrims are in extreme exhausted and fatigue state. There are women, old men and women besides sick and handicap pilgrims some of them on wheel chairs. This is most trying time for pilgrims. Some of them march through about 2 kms tunnel to reach makeshift bus stand where buses are available at exorbitant fare. After Tawafe Ziarat the pilgrim has to return to Mina same evening to complete the ritual of stoning of Jamarat, satan. Due to poor transport arrangement the pilgrims had to walk on foot about 100 kms. in five days of Haj.
  2. Accommodation arrangement at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa : The accommodation in tents arranged at Mina were poor. There were acute shortage of toilets and shower points. In fact due to long queue and poor water pipe system and shortage of water tap points for wazu pilgrims used to become napak, unsuitable for namaz. But pilgrim had to do namaz even in that condition. Sometimes Muallim’s staff gave substandard biryani or other food items and sometimes the pilgrims had to purchase food items from food stalls. There used to be general comment of workers of Muallim that the selection of accommodation was based on kick back given to officials of CGI and HCI.

4.Khadimul Hujjaj, Free sponsorship : It was alleged that large number of persons were sponsored by HCI, their cost borne by fee collected from pilgrims. What was the need to send Khadimul Hujjaj along with the groups. They are first timer Haj pilgrims. In the guise of helper of pilgrims they availed of free sponsorship to perform their Haj pilgrimage. They were rarely seen near regular pilgrims. They were neither interested in helping the pilgrims nor they were required to be sent on Haj mission. It was a system to send favourites on such free sponsorship.

Role of Consul General of India and Ministry of External Affairs: Role of Haj Mission offices:

Lobby of  Muallims :

The Pakistani origin establishment and staff were given contract to take care of pilgrims from India. They did not treat Indians well. They used to shout that no action would be taken against them or Muallim’s organizations as the contract were made on the basis of bribe given to officers of CGI and HCI. The staff of Muallims used to openly allege that kick back were paid in selection of Muallims and Buildings. I am sad to know that corrupt Muslim officials did not even spare pure Islamic activities of Haj. I believe they would have earned sin in the same proportion of their bribe.

Lobby of Owners of  Buildings :

The lobby of the Owners of Buildings which were selected for accommodation of pilgrims is very powerful.  The CGI and the HCI selected substandard buildings and accommodation on the basis of bribe, as alleged by some landlords and officials involved in the selection process. As per strict condition of the government of Saudi Arabia no woman can go on Haj without a Mahram, the person allowed by Islam to accompany a woman. But this condition is thrown to winds when non Mahram men also gets accommodation in the same room having beds for 4 to 5 persons. It is really a trying time for woman pilgrims. Neither the HCI nor the government of Saudi Arabia is doing anything to stream line accommodation as per Islamic rule.

Mina-Arafat-Muzdalifa : The officials of CGI at Jeddah and Indian Embassy at Riyadh were deputed to look after pilgrims at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. But they were conspicuous by their absence. I found about two hundred such staff and their family relaxing in five star luxurious tents. But they never visited any tent or inquired welfare from any pilgrims. The cheated the government of India and must have earned sin for their intentions. I must applaud the services rendered by some voluntary Muslim youth organizations of South India. When nobody was available to guide the way or route they helped the pilgrims. They organized some stalls also.

Medical team : I found medical team most useful at all places. They rendered great service to ailing pilgrims. In case of any accident also they were very useful. I fully approve of sending women doctors and staff on Haj duty.

Air flight co-ordination : Every year there is great confusion in schedule of flights of Air India and Saudi Airways. Many times they are delayed abnormally and sometimes cancelled without prior information to concerned pilgrims. It is acute in return journey after completion of Haj. There should besetup  a co-ordination and monitoring cell comprising of representatives of HCI, MEA, Air India and Saudi Airways at New Delhi.

Role of Government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia :

Credit should be given to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for organizing every year Haj pilgrimage performance by about thirty lakh persons from all over the world. I also give credit to them for continuing development of Haram complexes at Makkah and Madina. They do not hesitate in demolishing buildings and structures worth several thousands crore rupees. In last one decade many improvements have taken place. The infrastructure of ablution, toilets and shower facilities inside the complexes of Harams of Makkah and Madina are outstanding. They are well maintained and kept clean throughout. However, there are few areas in which there are visible short comings on the part of government of the Kingdom.

Qurbani : There is continuous difficulty in performing Qurbani, sacrifice of goat, camel or other animal as per Islamic guidelines. The pilgrim has to be just satisfied that he purchased coupon from competent agency approved by the government of the Kingdom for Qurbani of animal in his name.

Metro : There was mismanagement of transportation service for pilgrims for movement between Mina-Arafat-Muzdalifa-Mina on 9th and 10thZilhijja. The government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia introduced metro train service between these destinations and made it compulsory ride. Without any logic it banned other modes of transport like bus, etc. The Metro system failed to meet the challenge as number of trains was few and train lines were just two. Moreover, the movement of   pilgrims was handled by low level seasonal staff who did not have training for it. Due to heavy rush around metro stations few pilgrims died also. The pilgrims were left fighting to complete the rituals of Haj.

Shortage of food stalls : One area in which immense improvement is required is facility of food stalls and restaurants near the Harams of Makkah and Madina. Immediately after namaz in Harams several lakhs pilgrims surround such outlets located around the Harams. There is heavy rush for food due to shortage of such facility. The government should create infrastructure to organize large number of food stalls during Haj season.

Cranes : I appreciate the Kingdom is making all efforts to widen infrastructure of the complexes of Harams at Makkah and Madina. I found several cranes hanging over Haram  Kaaba complex. They looked very dangerous and   great safety hazard. Before start of the Haj season the cranes should be removed. There is also need to remove other construction support system from the Harams. These hanging cranes fell on pilgrims inside Haram Kaaba complex which resulted in death of several hundred pilgrims in later year.

Jamarat : In last decade much improvement has been done at Jamaratsatan complex. Still few years back large number of pilgrims were killed in the stampede. There is need to utilize modern technology to improve the infrastructure so that no accident takes place in future. The protection of life of pilgrim is paramount responsibility of the government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Learning from Haj : There is great learning from Haj. The pilgrims are the guests of Allah. During performance of the Haj their Iman faith becomes crystal clear. The most important lesson is that never to do Shirk, forbidden as GunahKabira, biggest sin which would not be forgiven by Allah. The Haj ritual revolves around this theme. The Muslim community should be always careful in strictly following Kalma.

Be the first to comment on "VISIT TO SAUDI ARABIA"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.