From the news desk

Hujjaj getting ready for Arafat

Hujjaj are settling into the tent city of Mina today, as they prepare for the climax of haj – the day of Arafat on Sunday. About 1.5 million pilgrims have arrived in Mina for day one of the haj, facing intense heat of up to 45 degrees. As helicopters hover above the tent city, there is a heavy police presence on the ground, with swarms of police, soldiers and traffic control officials around Mina. There are more than 100,000 air-conditioned tents in Mina providing temporary accommodation to the millions of pilgrims.

A brilliant aerial shot of the tent city  [Credit: Yusuf Abramjee]
A brilliant aerial shot of the tent city
[Credit: Yusuf Abramjee]
Community activist, Yusuf Abramjee, who is performing his first haj, said the move to Mina went smoothly. Hujjaj left Azizia after Fajr and arrived early this morning.

“A lot of pilgrims decided to walk and there was very little congestion. We came with a bus and the busses made their way with no traffic at all,” he told VOC News.

Things are calm and peaceful in Mina at the moment, as hujjaj seek shelter away from the punishing Arabian sun. Abramjee is located in Camp A+, which is about 3 kilometres away from the 1400 South African hujjaj, based at Camp C. While the weather is hovering between 40C to 45 degrees Celsius, the weather at the moment was “bearable”, he said.

Some hujjaj walking to Mina. Credit: Yusuf Abramjee

Many hujjaj opted not to walk to Mina, after the Saudi Ministry of Health issued a warning to pilgrims to rather travel by bus stay to avoid the heat. The ministry has urged hujjaj to stay under cover and to consume a lot of water as medical volunteers are concerned about the prevalence of heat strokes, especially for the elderly.

“The heat is extreme and in many areas, water sprayers are spraying a fine mist to cool off hujjaj. We South Africans are not used to these extreme conditions. When you walk a few kilometres, you are drenched in perspiration…that’s how hot it is.”

Industrial kitchens have been set up on Mina to provide food to all pilgrims in each camp. There are also ample toilet and ablution facilities available.

Hujjaj rest after a long journey
Hujjaj rest after a long journey

The nearby Jamarat where the pelting takes place on Monday has been sealed off by police and soldiers. Pilgrims are only restricted to their tents, where they will spend the day in recitation and reflection, until the exodus to Arafat after Fajr on Sunday morning.

“Haj is Arafat, it’s the most important day of the haj. Shortly after Thuhr salah, we will engage in dua on the most significant day of our lives,” said Abramjee.

According to Abramjee, it was evident that Saudi authorities have stepped up security and safety operations since last year’s fateful stampede at Mina, which claimed the lives of at least 2,236 pilgrims. In terms of readiness, the Saudi Haj Ministry has conducted several drill operations to prepare for this year’s hajj.

Mina has 25 hospitals and health centres manned by about 26,000 medical cadres of doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators to extend medical services to pilgrims. Civil Defense units, the security forces, the Red Crescent Authority are also stationed in Mina to serve the pilgrims.

Civil defence officials assist hujjaj  [Credit: Yusuf Abramjee]
Civil defence officials assist hujjaj
[Credit: Yusuf Abramjee]
Initial reports state that there are about 1.5 million pilgrims, which is a decrease from previous years. Lower pilgrim figures may be the reason for the smooth flow of operations.

The South African hujjaj, many of them elderly and first time pilgrims, are in high spirits and are being led by dynamic ulema. With most hujjaj having attended hajj classes, pilgrims have been educated on the historic and spiritual significance of the rituals they will be partaking in. Pilgrims are making use of their time to rest and engage in recitation and thikr while at Mina.

“The most important thing is to be mentally ready for this journey. It is the journey of a lifetime and we know the ulema have been giving them pep-talks to calm the anxiousness and nervousness of hujjaj. Very often people speak about how difficult haj is. For me personally, that’s a perception and our Deen makes it easy,” said Abramjee.

SA hujjaj relax at the tent. Credit: Yusuf Abramjee
SA hujjaj relax at the tent. Credit: Yusuf Abramjee

The well-known crime fighter and social cohesion advocate, who made a name for himself as a broadcast journalist, is performing haj with his family and a number of friends.

“When you come for hajj, it’s at the invitation of Allah and not because of a visa. Alhamdullilah, we ask the listeners to remember us in their duas. We will make dua for South Africa for safety, peace and security and also for beneficial rain, as our country is facing a severe drought. May Allah SWT accept our haj, Ameen.”

Hujajj will perform their five prayers at Mina on Saturday and then depart for Arafat after Fajr, where they will engage in dua and reflection on the great plains, known as the Day of Wuquf. On Sunday evening, they leave for Muzdalifah to collect pebbles for pelting, thereafter returning to Mina for the symbolic stoning of the Jamarat for three days. Hajj will conclude on Wednesday with the final tawaaf of the Kaabah, known as Tawaf Al Wida.

VOC listeners can catch Yusuf Abramjee live on ITV as they bring rolling hajj coverage on Channel 347 on DSTV. Also follow his haj journey on Facebook or Twitter @Abramjee.   VOC

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