Many of them out of their Ihram and back in their ordinary clothes, casually relaxed in and around their tents sipping hot beverages and making small talk. Others shopped for essentials at fruit stalls and snack stands. Gathering around vendors selling goods on mats on the ground, pilgrims bargained with traders before buying souvenirs for loved ones back home.
Dressed in a green and red garb, Rabiou Kalla Moussa, from Niger, stood tall as he walked by the tents allocated for East Asians, attempting to decipher the location of his tent using landmarks nearby. Making his first Hajj, Moussa said he had enjoyed the pilgrimage so far. Calling his presence at Arafat “marvellous” and describing having had a “great feeling” there, he said, “I don’t find any difficulty to perform the rituals that are prescribed, and I am very happy about that.”
Abdullah Al-Maliki, a security official from Makkah, was busy directing the pilgrims. It is a tough six hours on duty, followed by six hours off for Al-Maliki and his colleagues - he talked with happiness of the honour of serving the pilgrims.
“Even though it is Eid and we are away from home, being at Mina and among the pilgrims feels like I am with my family,” Al-Maliki said.
Mohammed, a middle-aged New Yorker said: “Words can’t express the appreciation I have for the authorities. We appreciate all the work and the effort that has gone into the Hajj.”
Reflecting on his experience, he said Hajj requires a lot of sacrifice and planning. He recalled how previous Hajj seasons fell in cooler months, making things physically easier compared to this year, when temperatures have hovered in the mid-40s.
Connecticut native Nystret praised the efforts of those who helped to make Hajj easy. Wearing a hat, the chef who specializes in Italian cuisine stood at the doorway of his white tent, and reflected upon being among millions of pilgrims from across the globe observing the ancient rites.
He said the past few days were a “wonderful experience” that he would recommend to anyone. “My kids are next,” he promised.
Meanwhile, pilgrims who performed Hajj as guests of King Salman have offered thanks, saying the programme brought them together despite language barriers.
The Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah programme this year hosted almost 4,000 Muslims in Saudi Arabia.
With more than 20 languages being spoken by the invitees, the programme brought in expat students from Saudi universities to provide translation services.
Mohammed Al-Amin Al-Shamekh, university teacher in Mauritania and chairman of the National Council of Higher Education in Nouakchott, praised the services provided by the programme, saying that guests were free to perform Hajj without other worries.
“The special and great housing and living we have been offered prompt us to pray for King Salman for the great efforts he exerted not only for his guests, but for all pilgrims and Muslims in general to provide them with security and safety,” he said.
“On behalf of me and the Mauritanian pilgrims, our sincere gratitude to the Kingdom (the government and the people).”
Haroun Abdallah, another guest of the programme, said: “The first two days of Hajj went very well and the third one started out smoothly … all the programme guests are enjoying the warm hospitality. We feel really united by religion, despite our different nationalities and languages.”
One guest from Ghana said, “Everyone who you ask talks about the fact this has been a great Hajj.”
Zaid bin Ali Al-Dakkan, deputy chairman of the Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah programme, said the 4,000 guests being hosted this year include a thousand from both Palestine and Egypt.
Apart from facilitating the Hajj rites, the programme includes trips to museums and Islamic sites of special interest such as Mount Uhud in Madinah. The guests are also given a tour of the factory where the Kiswa is made, and visit the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, the largest printing facility of the Islamic holy book in the world.
When the time comes for the guests to return home, they are given four things: Zamzam water, dates, a prayer mat and a souvenir of the programme.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk