A record 9,600 Muslims from across China will leave for their pilgrimage to
Mecca later this month by taking 31 chartered planes organized by the Chinese
Islamic Association, the China News Agency reported on Friday.
"It is the first time that Chinese pilgrims will fly directly from China to
Medinah this year, which is more convenient compared with previous tours when
the pilgrims first reached Jeddah by air, and then went to Medinah by bus," Yang
Zhibo, vice-chairman of the Chinese Islamic Association, was quoted as saying.
Normally, the pilgrims go to Medinah to worship at the holy tomb of Prophet
Mohammad, and then walk to Mecca for the Haj.
Muslims attending the Haj mainly come from eight provinces and autonomous
regions, namely Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Shaanxi in the northwest,
Inner Mongolia in North China, Central China's Henan and Southwest's Yunnan,
according to Yang.
The pilgrimage planes will take off from Lanzhou, Urumqi, Kunming and Beijing
between November 29 and December 17.
The journey back from Mecca will be between January 5-24, 2007.
Starting from 1989, the Chinese Islamic Association used chartered planes to
transport Chinese Muslims from China to Saudi Arabia, which saved both time and
money for pilgrims.
So far, about 120,000 Chinese Muslims have been to Mecca for the Haj since
the beginning of the 1980s.
"This year's number is a record high, which prompts us to take many measures
in both safety and accommodation," said Yang.
For instance, Chinese Muslims can either have dinner in community kitchens or
in designated local Chinese restaurants run by Chinese business people there.
A team of 20 medical workers will also accompany the pilgrims to Mecca to
provide in-time care as more than half of the pilgrims are elderly people,
according to Yang.
About 2.5 million pilgrims from all over the world are expected to attend
this year's hajj.
Yang said the organized Chinese Muslim pilgrimage group will contribute to a
smooth and orderly Haj in Saudi Arabia.
According to Islamic rules, every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so
is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.