ABU DHABI // Muslim expatriates who have applied for Haj permits from UAE-based missions will not be selected to go on the pilgrimage this year, according to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
Almost 40,000 people applied online to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia with millions of other Muslims from around the globe.
However, the UAE’s quota for this year’s Haj is 6,228 pilgrims. Awqaf said it would be issuing permits only to Emiratis. Last year, 142 Haj missions in the Emirates organised trips for 4,631 Emiratis and 351 expats.
An Awqaf spokesman said expats could apply for the Haj in their home countries. However, the deadline for many countries to register has passed. In the UAE, registration closed on April 13.
“More than 17,000 Emiratis have applied for Haj, much more than the allotment of 6,228 from the UAE,” he said.
Awqaf said the decision was in line with instructions from the ministry of Haj in Saudi Arabia and based on agreements between the ministry and a UAE delegation of Haj affairs.
Dr Mohammed Al Kaabi, chairman of Awqaf, said that more than 37,000 people, Emiratis and expats, had applied via the online Haj registration system. Of the 37,224 applicants, 22,291 were male and 14,933 were female.
“The online registration has created competition among Haj operators in offering their best services to pilgrims,” he said. “As a result, Haj packages dropped in price, starting from Dh12,500 per pilgrim up to Dh25,500 or more based on the type of services offered.”
Awqaf has started going through requests to inform people whether their applications had been accepted.
Dr Al Kaabi said first-time applicants would make up 80 per cent of pilgrims, while 20 per cent would be allocated to mahrams and those who accompany the sick, the elderly and people with special needs.
Previously, travel agencies charged as much as Dh70,000 a person for Haj packages for expats but after a request from Awqaf last year prices were cut. Operators in Pakistan, India and Lebanon often charge much less than in the UAE.
The price includes visas, transport, food and lodgings throughout the trip.
Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam that all able-bodied Muslims must perform at least once in their lives.
Hundreds of people died in a crush at the Haj in 2015. Riyadh said that 769 pilgrims were killed, the highest death toll since the crush in 1990. Saudi authorities last year said the Jamarat stoning ritual would be more tightly controlled after the tragedy in 2015. hundreds were killed in a stampede in 2015’s pilgrimage