Record number of Kenyans headed for Hajj in Saudi Arabia

NAIROBI, KENYA: Hundreds of Kenyans will be jetting out Wednesday from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the month-long religious pilgrimage or “Hajj.”

This year, Kenya will have the highest number of pilgrims to Mecca in the history of the country. At least 4500 persons have signed up to travel so far, up from 3000 in 2013.

Sharriff Hussein, the Vice Chairman of the Kenya Hajj Mission, which is coordinating the travel of the pilgrims, said that hundreds of other pilgrims will fly out in the coming days. Hundreds of others have been flying it the whole of this week.

“Many pilgrims from all over the country have converged in Nairobi to catch their flights out. We thank God that the travel arrangements have been smooth so far. We got maximum cooperation from the Immigration Department and the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Nairobi,” he said in Nairobi.

Thursday, Kenya Airways is expected to fly hundreds of other pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.  The last flights carrying the pilgrims are expected to go out this coming Saturday. This year, four airlines are competing for the lucrative Hajj passengers, including Kenya airways, Emirates, Yemeni and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

On his part, Abdi Haji, a pilgrim from Garissa said that he is excited to travel to Mecca to fulfil his religious obligations and tour key religious sites there.

“I have been saving money for the last one year for this journey. I am happy that finally my dream of going to Mecca have finally been realised. I thank God,” he said.

Hussein appealed to the Saudi Embassy in Nairobi to urgently increase the slots set aside for Kenyans by 300 to enable more pilgrims to make the journey

He praised the Immigration Department for going the extra mile to process travel documents for the pilgrims and clearing the backlog had initially generated fears that some travellers may miss out on the journey.

Travelling to Mecca, one of the sacred sites for Islam is a religious obligation on all Muslims who have enough money and are healthy enough to undertake the journey at least once in a life time.

While there, they conduct series of religious ceremonies including prayers, reflection and sacrificing of animals among other rites in what they see to be in footsteps of Abraham, the divine prophet who is also a great religious figure among Christians and Jews.