A 104-year-old Indonesian woman, one of the oldest pilgrims to perform Hajj this year, said she was thrilled and grateful to be heading to the holy city of Mecca to embark on the pilgrimage.
“Alhamdulillah [praise be to God], I am going to Mecca. Alhamdulillah, I am going to Hajj,” said Ibu Mariah Marghani Muhammad shortly after landing in Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on Saturday.
The woman, who was wearing a white head-to-toe Islamic dress, had performed Umrah when she was 90 years old, said a statement released by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information.
Officials at the Indonesian Consulate said that Ibu Mariah was in “good health and will be able to perform her Hajj rituals without any problems,” reported the statement.
“Saudi Arabia warmly welcomes Ibu Mariah. The Hajj is the spiritual highlight in the life of every Muslim,” said a spokesman for the ministry. “At the age of 104, it is remarkable for Ibu Mariah to be here. We wish her well.”
There are 3.2 million Indonesians on the Hajj waiting list, which creates an average 37-year wait before citizens of the largest Muslim country in the world can perform Hajj, Joko Asmoro, chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Association for Hajj and Umrah Travels, told the Saudi Gazette last year.
For Indonesians, the 10-hour flight and $1,000 (Dh3,674) average cost of Hajj make it a once in lifetime event for most.
Ibu Mariah is one of the 221,000 pilgrims from Indonesia who will be performing the Hajj this year. According to the statement, more than 1.5 million worshippers from all over the world have already arrived in the kingdom to perform the annual pilgrimage.
The Saudi Press Agency said the more than 1.5 million arrivals mark a 33 per cent increase in worshippers compared to the arrivals in the same period in 2016.
That includes the 90,000 Iranians expected to attend Hajj this year after Tehran boycotted the pilgrimage last year amid tensions with Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, according to the Qatari Islamic affairs ministry, 20,000 Qatari citizens have registered to take part in this year's Hajj.
More than 400 Qatari pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage, despite an intensifying row between Doha and Riyadh over arrangements for the religious event.
This also comes amid rising tensions between Qatar and four Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, which accuse Doha of supporting terrorist groups and developing ties with regional arch-foe Iran.
All Qatari pilgrims arrived through the Salwa border crossing, which has been closed since Saudi authorities cut off diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5. The crossing is the countries’ only land border.
Saudi Arabia is geared up to host about two million pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season, which will take place from August 30 until September 4.