9,600 Chinese Muslims flying to Medinah for Haj

(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-11 08:57

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.

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