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Pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia

Updated: 2014-09-24
By Xu Wei in Beijing and Wang Huazhong in Yinchuan ( China Daily )

Thousands of Chinese Muslims make journey to holy city of Mecca

The latest group of Chinese pilgrims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, arrived in Medina on Saturday night, as Muslims from around the world converge on the holy city for an annual pilgrimage.

More than 14,500 Chinese Muslims have traveled to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage this year on a government-organized trip involving 94 chartered flights, according to the China Islamic Association.

"All of them arrived at Medina safely, and they will head for Mecca after a stay of four or five days," said Ma Xiubang, an official at the association's pilgrimage office.

The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the hajj, is a religious tradition that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Mecca are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime.

This year's hajj, from the eighth to 12th of the last month of the Islamic calendar, is expected to fall on Oct 3 to 7, according to the association.

Ma said the number of Chinese pilgrims is about 2,000 more than last year.

"The improvement of accommodations is another major change. They will all stay in three-star hotels or even better," he said.

The pilgrims are expected to begin returning on Oct 10, with the last group leaving on Oct 31.

"My parents had no chance to go to Mecca in their lifetime because the family was poor. Now, we are living in good conditions and the wish is coming true," Na Changjun, from Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, told Xinhua News Agency. The 68-year-old will travel along with his wife.

According to the pilgrimage service center in Ningxia, local authorities organized nine chartered flights to Mecca this year for 2,833 local Muslims.

Pilgrims also received uniformed clothes for the trip. The Chinese national flag and the word "China" can be seen on the clothes and "Ningxia pilgrimage group" is embroidered on their luggage.

Minmala, a deputy imam at the Wunan Grand Mosque at Wuzhong in Ningxia, said the national flag on clothes helped people to find a lost pilgrim in Mecca years ago.

"An elderly woman from Ningxia couldn't find her group. She was overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people there. Then she found a police officer and in a desperate attempt she pointed to the national flag on her chest. The officer took her to the Chinese camp," Minmala said.

The Chinese work group accompanying the trip will provide services including translation, accommodation, medical treatment, transportation and security.

Ma said the pilgrimage costs about 36,000 yuan ($5,860) per person.

China has more than 20 million Muslims, about half of them from the Hui ethnic group. Chinese Muslims live mainly in the western provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan and the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions.

Last year, a total of 1,379,531 pilgrims from 188 countries arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

Saudi authorities announced on Sept 15 that close to 500,000 foreign pilgrims have arrived in the country for this year's hajj.

Contact the writers at xuwei@chinadaily.com.cn and wanghuazhong@chinadaily.com.cn

Gao Bo in Urumqi and Cui Jia in Beijing contributed to the story.

Pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia 

Pilgrims from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region arrive at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Wednesday before heading to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage of Muslims. More than 14,500 pilgrims from China made the trip.  Liu Guanguan / China News Service

Pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia

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