The firstbatch of UAE Haj pilgrims from Makkah arriving at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 1 on Friday morning. Photos byJuidin Bernarrd
A team of more than 60 Haj and Umrah Service staff members and workers greeted pilgrims with smiles, drinks, sweets, perfumes and gifts.
As many as 6,620 pilgrims flew in on 13 Saudia flights to Terminal 1 and nearly 3,000 others arrived on six Emirates Airlines flights at Terminal 3.
According toWam, 3,000 pilgrims arrived onboard eight flights in Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The flights were operated by Etihad Airways, Saudia and private carriers.
According to senior vice-president of Airports Operations at Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), all arrangements were made by government and non-government agencies to ensure a seamless flow of pilgrims at the airport.
Three special points were allocated for returning pilgrims to easily pick up their Zamzam water along with their baggage.
The Abu Dhabi airport is expected to receive eight scheduled and nine non-scheduled Haj flights from Saudi Arabia, aWamreport said.
More than 13,000 pilgrims are expected to reach Dubai on over 70 Emirates Airlines flights and over 9,000 on 22 Saudia flights, according to a senior official.
Those flights will have pilgrims as well as transit and non-pilgrim passengers.“Fully geared up are the 40-member Haj and Umrah Service team to finish pilgrims’ arrival procedures in 10 to 12 minutes as was the case during departure,” Abdullah Ali Al Redha, manager, Terminal Support Services Department, toldKhaleej Times.“Some additional 40 workers were also ready for help at the four baggage belts — 6, 8, 9, and 10 — specified for the pilgrims.”
A team of five special needs volunteers, for the first time, took part in receiving the elderly and special needs pilgrims. “The special needs volunteers’ outstanding success at departure time encouraged us to press them into service again during arrival.”
Redha, who is also the Haj and Umrah general coordinator, said his team has always been very keen to develop the services being rendered to pilgrims. “We get ready two months before the season which cost us more than Dh700,000.”
Lt-Col Khalifa Matter Balquba, Assistant Director for Residency External Centres, said the Residency and Foreigners Affairs Department was ready for the season with Tasaheel team, which includes 15 people other than immigration staff. “Some 20 of the 30 passport counters are available to finish pilgrims’ arrival procedures in three to five minutes,” he said, adding that the entry procedures of each passenger arriving on the first flight were finished in just four minutes.
Ibrahim Al Amiri, Head of Terminal-1 Operations, said the Haj and Umrah committee at the airport, for the first time, has installed three different tents for receiving pilgrims — one for presenting coffee and special sweets, the second for gifts including fine perfumes, juices, water, flowers, copies of the Holy Quran, and the third for guests and pilgrims’ relatives outside the main building. “A special area has also been specified for collecting bottles of blessed Zamzam water close to the baggage belt.”
Meanwhile, three medical teams of four nurses and a doctor each in direct connection with a consultant in a fully equipped ambulance from the Dubai Ambulance Services waited outside the airport in three areas: the plane door, baggage area, and reception lounge. “There were also 10 wheelchairs and six golf carts,” he said.
Performing Haj 40thtime
Ali Ahmed Taleea, Sharjah, who performed Haj 40thtime, said the services this time were the best. Born in 1944, going on Haj has become an indispensable worship for Taleea almost every year. “I feel blessed to perform Haj 40 times, particularly with my wife Hesa Salem who herself has performed Haj 20 times.”
Rashid Mohammed Al Khaddim, 35, an administrative official with a Haj tour operator from Fujairah, said of the five Haj tours he had accompanied, this was the hardest. “There were more than five million pilgrims this year unlike last year when people were afraid of swine flu. It was also holiday’s time that more people went for pilgrimage.”
Khaddim, who is also an Emirati electrical engineer, said his 450-passenger flight faced some three-hour delay in Jeddah Airport. “It took them some time to fix a broken shelf on the Saudia plane flying us to Dubai. Some pilgrims failed to appear in time while others were carrying too much baggage,” he said, calling for a faster check-out system in Saudi Arabia to cope with the developments there.
The UAE official Haj Mission has been in contact with all Haj tour operators round the clock. “They were ready for emergency cases and severe climate changes such as last year’s floods. They pleasantly answered pilgrims’ queries and willingly attended to their requests.”Mohammed Said Al Shamsi, 28, from Abu Dhabi, said only around 30 per cent of the Haj train project in Saudi Arabia has been completed. “We wanted to try the new train, but it was only allowed for Saudi Haj tours.”
Majda Ahmed, 52, Egyptian, said she felt blessed to be able to perform Haj for the first time. “Though the season was very crowded, but I feel very optimistic; I have become a new person. All my previous sins have been washed away due to Haj.”
She took even the sudden spell of rains in Makkah as an indication of God’s acceptance of her pilgrimage. “We were very happy with the rains which cleaned the pilgrims’ bodies and purifies their souls at those holy places.”