Malaysian pilgrims start returning home at end of smooth haj season

Sofea Chok Suat Ling

MAKKAH: The first batch of Malaysian haj pilgrims are returning home tomorrow after completing their haj.

Pilgrims from other countries have also started departing the holy city after successfully performing the fifth pillar of Islam.

Tabung Haji (TH) head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman said there would be 81 flights back to Malaysia, of which 47 would be departing from Jeddah and the rest from Madinah.

Tabung Haji (TH) head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman.

"The flights from Jeddah would be from Aug 29 to Sept 15, and Sept 11 to 25 from Madinah.

"The first flight would depart on Aug 29 from Jeddah at 3.05am (local time) and arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport the same day at 4.45pm (Malaysian time)

"The last flight would depart from Madinah on Sept 25 at 2.10pm (local time) and arrive in Malaysia on Sept 26 at 3.40am (Malaysian time)," he told Malaysian media in a press conference at TH headquarters Abraj Al-Janadriyah here.

Syed Saleh had earlier attended a ceremony to fete TH volunteers called Sahabat Maktab who had worked tirelessly to help fellow pilgrims in need.

The last of the 2.37 million pilgrims from around the world completed their tawaf and saie here last Friday, bringing the five-day haj season this year to a close.

For the tawaf, pilgrims prayed and walked in a circle around the Kaabah seven times in a counterclockwise direction. This is meant to express the devotion of Muslims to the one God.

Saie between the hills of Safa and Marwah, now housed within the Grand Mosque complex, was carried out after tawaf.

The rite commemorates the actions of Hajar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim who ran seven times between the hills in search of water for her son.

A total of 2,371,675 pilgrims had travelled here for this year's haj, 1.75 million of whom were from outside Saudi Arabia, according to Saudi's Ministry of Culture and Information's Centre for International Communication (CIC).

One million pilgrims came from Asia, and 166,063 arrived from African countries.

A total of 88,601 pilgrims travelled from European countries, while 24,992 pilgrims came from the United States and Australia. A total of 34,140 came from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

A total of 287,300 civilians and military personnel were deployed at the holy sites.

Syed Saleh said the haj season this year ran very smoothly, with no major untoward incidents, calamities and epidemics.

"I would like to thank the Saudi authorities as well as all TH personnel who have ensured the smooth running of this year's haj.

"Malaysian pilgrims also got the attention of the Saudi government for keeping their tent sites as clean as before they moved in. Our tent sites were acknowledged as the cleanest among all countries

"We did not think our cleanliness campaign would be this successful but we are glad we got the cooperation of all."

He said work to ensure the smooth running of the haj season next year would commence soon with several post-mortem sessions.

"We will also take into account the feedback from pilgrims through the forms we distributed manually and electronically in the Holy Land.

"TH will be in communications with the Saudi authorities throughout the year to plan and organise for the 1440H haj season."

To ensure a smooth departure process, Malaysian pilgrims departing the Holy Land are required to check in their luggage bags two days in advance.

Under the initiative called "city check-in", bags are weighed at pilgrims' accommodation buildings, tagged and checked in directly. Pilgrims only need to bring their hand luggage with them when they board buses to the airport.

Their baggage is brought in advance to the airport on trucks. They collect their luggage only upon arrival in Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman (center) at a ceremony to fete TH volunteers called Sahabat Maktab.

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