One of the five pillars of Islam, Haj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca and is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey and can support their family during their absence.
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th of Dhu Al Hijja, which is the final month in the Islamic calendar.
For those looking to travel for this year’s Haj, which is due to start next week, it’s advised that you note the following regulations and requirements before you fly:
• GCC nationals must obtain the official Haj permit to enter.
• All guests travelling on Haj flights must hold valid passports with Haj visas, and have confirmed return flights on their tickets (GCC nationals do not require a visa).
• Immigration cards must be filled in on-board, after take-off, and be ready at the time of landing for presentation to Saudi Arabian immigration.
• Immigration cards should be completed in Arabic for Arab nationals and in English for all remaining guests.
• Advanced Passenger Information System data, which includes full name, passport number, gender and nationality, needs to be updated on the passenger name record for all guests, including children and infants.
• Haj regulations stipulate that only five litres of Zamzam water per person is permitted.
Haj return flights on Etihad Airways will commence at 1pm on October 18 and finish on November 8 (www.etihad.com).
You can book three nights in Mecca and two nights in Medina with Al Hammadi Tours. The package includes return flights from Dubai on FlyDubai, five nights in a five-star hotel, transportation to and from every stop-off and an experienced scholar who will accompany the group. Prices start from Dh3,700 per adult, per night. Bookings must be made at least 10 days before departure, and a valid passport copy and Dh1,000 must be presented when booking (www.alhammaditours.com/packages.html).
Health and safety
Safety measures to avoid Mers while travelling are as follows:
• Wearing a mask when in a crowded place.
• Covering one's face while coughing.
• Taking required vaccinations.
• Avoiding close contact with camels or the consumption of unpasteurised camel milk or improperly cooked camel meat.
• Getting proper nutrition and sleep.
• Those travelling for Haj should be up-to-date with routine immunisations.
• People returning from Saudi Arabia must seek medical attention if they develop a significant acute respiratory illness with fever and cough (severe enough to interfere with usual daily activities).
• Those with chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, immune deficiency and kidney disease, and the terminally ill, pregnant women and those more than 65 years of age or under 12 have been advised not to travel for Haj this year.