First batch of Haj pilgrims leaves for Madina
Hyderabad, Oct 30 (IANS) The first batch of Haj pilgrims from India this year left for the holy city of Madina in Saudi Arabia early Thursday.
The batch comprising of 299 pilgrims left at 5.30 a.m. by a Saudi Airlines flight from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad.
The Andhra Pradesh Minister for Minorities Welfare Mohammed Ali Shabbir and other top officials saw off the pilgrims at the Haj terminal, which was earlier inaugurated by the minister.
This is the first time that Haj pilgrims are flying from the new international airport, which commenced commercial operations in March this year.
About 7,000 Haj pilgrims from the state will fly to Madina through 23 flights till Nov 16.
There was confusion among pilgrims before departure, as 47 pilgrims of the first batch had not received their passports, which were sent to Mumbai for endorsement. The authorities assured them that they would be sent through subsequent flights. An equal number of passengers, who were scheduled to fly later, were accommodated in the first flight.
Earlier, emotional scenes were witnessed at Haj House, the embarkation point for pilgrims as hundreds of relatives bid goodbye amid 'talbeeh' or the Arabic words uttered by pilgrims in the praise of Allah during the Haj.
The annual Haj rituals will be performed in the holy city of Makkah in December. As many as 168,000 Indian pilgrims will be performing Haj this year. Saudi Airlines and Air India will operate 391 flights from different cities to ferry the pilgrims.
While 123,211 pilgrims will be routed through the Central Haj Committee, the remaining will be travelling through private tour operators.
Like previous years, all the formalities related to the air travel of the pilgrims are being completed at Haj House located in the heart of the city. Pilgrims from different parts of the state are gathering at Haj House, where the officials of customs, immigration and other departments have opened their counters.
The state Haj committee also made elaborate arrangements for the accommodation and food of the pilgrims. They were issued boarding passes here before being taken to the airport at Shamshabad, about 35 km from here, in special buses.
The Haj committee officials said at the Haj terminal that the pilgrims were offered facilities on par with those available in Islamic countries. They include facility for 'wazu' or ablution and 'namaz'. The terminal can accommodate 500 passengers.
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