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Algerians prepare for the Hajj, a ritual in itself

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  • Algerians prepare for the Hajj, a ritual in itself

    Algiers' airport sounds like a party with wailing, tears and kisses. The pilgrims are saying their goodbyes before their trip, or hajj to Mecca - Islam's holiest site.

    Scheduled for 4:25pm, the flight from Algiers to Medina will carry the pilgrims to their destination. It is the end of December, days before the last flight for pilgrims. A total of 143 flights to Medina and Jeddah have been scheduled for 35,000 Algerian pilgrims. The first left December 9th, carrying 300 passengers.

    Athmane Zaid, 60, is taking the trip. He has dreamt of this pilgrimage since childhood. "I put my name forward for the draw at the town hall five years ago and only this year was I chosen. Thanks be to God!"

    Some 120,000 people expressed their wish to observe the rites of the hajj and entered this year’s random drawing, which took place in July this year. However, Algeria’s quota is restricted to 35,000 people, just more than a quarter of those who applied.

    Assaad Boussenna, who is just 14 months old, drew the most attention with his tiny eyes drooping with weariness. Assaad has already performed Omra and is setting off on the hajj. In fact, Assaad has a link with Islam's holy sites as he was born in the region. Today he is returning, handsomely dressed in a gandurah with a bottle in his mouth.

    Athmane, who is travelling with his wife Aldjia, is disappointed that many will be unable to make the trip. "I know there are country quotas, but I don’t understand how some people get to go several times while others can’t go once." He points at a young child. "He has his whole life. His parents should consider others who might die without performing this pillar of Islam."

    Algerians used to make the pilgrimage independently, paying the full cost themselves. This year, hajjs must now pay almost $3,500 dollars per person.

    "It’s too expensive," says Fatiha Sidhoum, who is travelling with her son Omar. "I’ve worked my whole life. Since my husband died, I’ve had to raise seven children on my own. God has rewarded me for my efforts. My son Omar who lives in England has saved up so we can go to Mecca together."

    Omar, visibly moved, says, "It’s the least I can do to give her back a tiny bit of what she has given us."

    Approximately 98% of the costs are collected by the Banque d’Algerie and are used to pay for services, mainly the cost of travel and accommodation for pilgrims in Islam's holy land. The remaining 2% is given to the National Pilgrimage Committee (CNP) which uses it for other needs of hajjs, Bouabdellah Ghlamallah, minister of religious affairs said.

    A message comes from the loudspeakers to say that boarding for the hajjs has begun, and the excitement level increases. People give their loved ones instructions not to lose their documents and tell them what to do if they fall ill or have an accident. The tears begin flowing and the wailing resumes. Cries of "Pray for us!", "Take care!", "Return safely!" and "May God accept your pilgrimage" fill the airport.

    The group takes off on the long anticipated trip as "worthy representatives of Algeria."

    Algerians prepare for the Hajj, a ritual in itself

  • #2
    Three Algerian pilgrims die in Hajj holy places in Saudi Arabia

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    • #3
      The end of the Hajj

      MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Tired Muslims making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca gave up walking on the final day and put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous taxi drivers to complete the gruelling rites on time.

      Over 2.5 million pilgrims have followed a 44 km route through the mountains round Mecca over the last four days, mostly on foot, and on Monday they were hurrying to Islam's holiest city for a final prescribed visit to its Grand Mosque.

      "Get out of my face, it's 150 riyals ($40)! Don't waste my time," a Saudi moped driver snapped at pilgrims who tried to bargain over the 5 km ride into the city.

      Pilgrims were jumping onto or into whatever form of transport they could to reach Mecca from the narrow mountain pass of Mena, where they had spent two days taking part in the traditional ritual of stoning the devil.

      The moped owners, able to dodge nimbly through the congested traffic and rotting piles of rubbish lining the streets, were the biggest gainers.

      "They make about 1,000 riyals in 2 hours, while it would take us at least 6 hours of work to make that kind of money," said Yousef al-Atheery, a Saudi driving a large SUV.

      Most pilgrims were paying 30 riyals to ride inside the large cars, or 15 riyals to ride on the roof. Local livestock truck drivers joined in, offering pilgrims another cheap alternative.

      "The car is far more practical for the elderly," said Algerian Abdel-Ali Tawati, accompanying his mother in a car carrying 25 people. "It stinks out there, you just can't walk."

      Pilgrims have praised the Saudi authorities for improved organisation that has ensured no repeat of a series of deadly overcrowding tragedies that have beset the haj in recent years.

      But the problem of smoothly transporting more than two million people to the various hajj locations remains unresolved. Efforts to ban motorcycles and other vehicles have failed.

      By the final day, fewer pilgrims are prepared to walk, even if progress is slower in a car.

      "Look at the pedestrians, they are moving faster than the cars," said Hamdan bin Musaileh, a Yemeni passenger in a car.

      "I bet they get a better reward from God for walking to the Grand Mosque rather than getting a ride."

      Tired pilgrims seek transport on last day of Hajj

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      • #4
        Se premier contingent de pèlerins en provenance de Djedda a rejoint Alger hier, tôt dans la matinée. L’arrivée de ce premier vol, prévue à 4h30 du matin, a été retardée de deux heures et demie, ce qui n’a pas dissuadé la foule restée sur place à attendre l’arrivée des premiers pèlerins.

        L’ambiance était colorée hier à l’aéroport Houari-Boumediene où, malgré un froid de canard, des familles entières guettaient la sortie de leurs proches. A chaque fois qu’un groupe de pèlerins sortait, il était accueilli par les youyous de la foule.

        Les pèlerins ont affirmé que le pèlerinage de cette année s’est déroulé dans de bonnes conditions. Il y a une nette amélioration par rapport aux années précédentes, surtout que cette année la station au mont Arafat avait coïncidé avec la prière du vendredi, d’où le flux important de pèlerins et de fidèles.

        Malgré cette coïncidence, tout s’est bien déroulé. Habillés de blanc, munis de gourdes ou de Thermos remplies d’eau de Bir Zemzem (eau bénite) et tenant à la main le coran, la plupart des pèlerins avaient les larmes aux yeux, des larmes de joie et d’émotion.

        Emus, certains pèlerins ont éclaté en sanglots, notamment lorsqu’ils ont retrouvé les membres de leurs familles. Il convient de signaler que ce premier vol qui a atterri sur le tarmac de l’aéroport international Houari-Boumediene consacre le début d’un programme de 144 vols prévus par Air Algérie à destination de plusieurs wilayas du pays, à savoir Oran, Constantine, Alger, Annaba, Batna, Tiaret, Laghouat, Béchar, Adrar, Ghardaïa et Ouargla.

        Ces vols englobent également les vols directs à partir de Médine et ceux en provenance de Djedda. Pour Alger, 47 vols, dont le dernier est programmé pour le 27 janvier, sont prévus. L’opération pèlerinage s’est déroulée cette année sans incidents majeurs.

        Aucun sinistre n’a été enregistré durant la station d’Arafat et la lapidation du haut du pont des Djamarate. Il convient de signaler que le nombre total de pèlerins algériens s’élève cette année à 35 000, dont 600 font partie de la mission algérienne d’encadrement et 10 ministres.

        Quant au coût du pèlerinage, il a été fixé à 160 000 dinars sans le billet d’avion.

        Le premier contingent de Pèlerins a regagné hier Alger

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        • #5
          ...Selon le sous-directeur du pèlerinage et de la Omra au ministère des Affaires religieuses et des Waqfs, Youcef Benmehdi, «Cette année, le pèlerinage s’est déroulé dans de bonnes conditions».Toutefois, il a déploré 21 morts parmi les hadji». En précisant qu’il s’agit «de personnes atteintes de maladies chroniques et qui n’auraient pas du faire le déplacement à La Mecque»...

          Le premier contingent de hadji regagne Alger

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