Haj pilgrims return to warm greetings

DUBAI — About 7,000 Haj pilgrims returning on the first flights back from Saudi Arabia were greeted with warm welcomes at Dubai International Airport yesterday.

By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)

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Published: Sun 23 Dec 2007, 8:57 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:20 AM

Extensive special arrangements were made to deal with the departure and now the return and transit of the Hajis, who are expected to number up to 30,000 in total.

Every hour from 7am yesterday flights poured into the airport, including four Emirates and 14 Saudi Arabian Airlines flights, offloading tired but happy pilgrims who were greeted by airport officials and ushered through the terminal, offered refreshments and their processing simplified.

Munira Al Sayegh left Dubai on December 8 for her first Haj and was one of those returning yesterday and greeted with big hugs from her four children, the eldest daughter keen to join her next time.

“It was very nice and the airport has been very flexible — they (officials) open all the doors,” she said. For Saeed Al Ketbi his first Haj was something he struggled to describe.

“It was something different, something amazing,” he said. “I can’t explain it.” Today is expected to be one of the busiest days with 16 Saudi Arabian flights and five Emirates flights from Saudi Arabia to Dubai.

Dubai Airports Haj and Umrah Terminal Management General Coordinator Vice President Abdulla Ali said he aimed to have returning Haj passengers through the airport in ten minutes.

Planes were parked near the terminal and Hajis were exempt from normal immigration procedures to achieve this.

Ali said in addition three baggage carousels and, if needed, a fourth had been dedicated to Haj pilgrims.

Up to 4,000 extra trolleys had been added to the existing 3,000 available at the airport and 14 extra porters.

Emergency medical teams have been stationed at various points from the plane to the terminal, the baggage carousel and outside the airport hall.

While there had been no major incidents yesterday, Ali said health and safety were always a concern, particularly with many of the Hajis being old and the trip being a tiring one.

“Most are above 50 and they need support,” Ali said. “We try to offer them the best services.”

Ibrahim Redha has completed two umrahs already but this was also his first Haj with his wife and two adult daughters.

He said the extra services were particularly welcome after the journey.

The last Haj flight by Saudia is today and for Emirates on December 26 while passengers will continue to transit till the end of the month.

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