M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia
About eight hundred (800) would –be Sierra Leonean pilgrims have safely landed on the Holy Land of Mecca; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to perform this year’s Muslim pilgrimage.
Led by Special Assistant to His Excellency, the President on Social Affairs, Alhaji Sheka Kamara, they arrived onboard Flynas, Saudi Arabia’s first and only budget airline, at the Hajj Terminal of the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah on Tuesday, September 06, 2016.
They were warmly received by the diplomatic and locally recruited staff of the Sierra Leone Embassy headed by Ambassador Alhaji M.S. Kargbo and other Sierra Leonean nationals resident in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Unlike previous years, this year, the pilgrims successfully went through immigration and security checks without any hitch.
Speaking in a brief interview in Mecca in the early hours of Wednesday, September 07, 2016, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President who is also a senior member of the Sierra Leone National Hajj Coordinating Committee, Mohamed Alie Bah said that the pilgrims “are now happily housed” at hotels not too far from “Masjid al-Ḥarām” also called the Sacred Mosque and the Grand Mosque of Mecca – the largest mosque in the world.
This is the first Hajj being attended by Sierra Leone since 2013 after the deadly Ebola outbreak which killed a good number of Sierra Leoneans across the country.
The Muslim pilgrimage is the largest gathering of people in the world. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah says about two million people are expected in Mecca to observe the fifth pillar of Islam which is a mandatory religious duty for an adult Muslim who can afford it. Already, Saudi authorities estimate that over one million people are in the country getting ready to embark on the ritual.
This year’s Hajj is expected to begin on Saturday, September 10, 2016 and ends on Thursday, September, 15.