Thousands of Kenyans to travel to Mecca for Pilgrimage

NAIROBI: At least 4,500 Kenyans are set to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual religious pilgrimage (hajj), the highest number in recent history.

The first batch of pilgrims jetted off from Nairobi on Monday with more expected to do so in the coming days as they rush to be in Mecca for the ceremonies expected to begin on 20th of this month.

Muslims who are in good health and are able to afford it are required to make the pilgrimage once in a lifetime to perform religious ceremonies there.

However, the fate of another 500 Kenyan pilgrims hangs in the balance as the Saudi government is yet to release word on whether they will be granted visas or not.

Vice Chair of the Kenya Hajj Mission Sharriff Hussein who is coordinating the travel appealed Tuesday to the Saudi government to fast-track visa issuance to enable the 500 Kenyans to travel in good time.

“The pilgrims are ready to travel and have made all their arrangements including accommodation and meals. We call on the Saudi government to move fast and grant them visas,” he said.

He added: “We also appeal to Kenya Airways to increase the number of flights to Saudi Arabia to ensure that all pilgrims reach there in good time.”

Hussein said that they are lobbying for the Kenyan quota of pilgrims to be increased to 10,000 considering that the number of those seeking to travel has risen significantly in the recent years.

Each country has a quota of pilgrims who are allowed to travel to Mecca depending on the size of  their Muslim populations. 

The Saudi government is yet to make a decision on the matter after Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the request on behalf of Kenyans.

Hussein said that the loss of value of the Kenyan shilling in the recent months has made the pilgrimage more expensive for Kenyans but has dampened e number of travelers.

Each pilgrims pays between Sh300,000 to Sh500,000 to cater for travel, accommodation and meals for a period of three weeks.