“Cheap tours to the Hajj don’t exist”: how not become a hoodwinked pilgrim

1,800 people from Tatarstan will go to Mecca in 2019

This year Saudi Arabia has increased quotas for Russian pilgrims going to the Hajj. And additional 5,000 tickets were distributed among tour operators working under the aegis of Muslim spiritual directorates. However, year after year believers don’t reach holy places in the end by paying big money. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent found out how not to fall prey to swindlers, the price for a tour to Mecca and who had a chance to go to the kingdom free.

How Dagestanis got half of quotas

25,500 pilgrims will go to the Hajj from Russia in 2019. As First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia Rushan Abbyasov said during a live link-up of Moscow, Kazan and Simferopol, Saudi Arabia had granted out country 20,500 quotas first. After the Federation Council’s vice speaker Ilyas Umakhanov’s address, who is responsible for Hajj affairs, Riyadh gave us another 5,000 seats.

Dagestan got the most quotas — 10,000. By the way, Umakhanov is the senator of this North Caucasian republic. Generally speaking, according to Khazrat Rushan, Caucasian regions show the maximum activity in pilgrimage issues.

Moscow got 2,000 tickets. Deputy Mufti of Crimea Ayder Ismailov added that about 800 pilgrims would go there through the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Crimea and Simferopol. Moreover, residents of the peninsula, which is sanctioned, have to apply for a visa to the KSA in Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.

The Muslim Spiritual Directorate of the Republic of Tatarstan was given 1,800 seats through its tour operator MSD RT Hajj.

“This quota has been completely sold out,” head of MSD RT Hajj Ranis Vakhitov stressed.

170,000 rubles to go to Mecca

Vakhitov also said that Tatarstan pilgrims purchased the tours in four programmes: Standard Included, Super Economy from Kazan, Super Economy from Moscow, Standard Minimum from Moscow. They all include meals, accommodation, transfers and flights, legal and medical assistance. The cheapest tour will cost 170,000 rubles. The most expensive is 260,000 rubles.

There are also people who will go to Mecca for free. Three winners of republican competitions got the coveted tickets: Quran reciters, winners of the Tatarstan Mufti Kuresh Cup and the 3rd Sh. Marjani All-Russian Jujutsu Championship. The first pilgrim groups from Kazan (196 people) will go on 24 July through Moscow. Khazrat Ranis also said that convenient illustrated guides, mini dictionaries for a dialogue in the Arab language were created for the pilgrims. They are accompanied by heads of groups and 20 doctors. Both old and young people are going to holy places. The oldest Tatarstan pilgrim is 86 years, the youngest is 13. In addition, Vakhitov noted that a sexually mature person must do the pilgrimage. If somebody has been in Mecca as a child, this person is still obliged to go to the Hajj.

“A trip to Mecca and Medina isn’t a travel. A Muslim must wholeheartedly practise the customs, be patient, control his emotions so that Allah will accept the Hajj,” adviser to the Tatarstan mufti on local religious organisations Ravil Zuferov instructed.

How not to fall into swindlers’ clutches

Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent who was in the studio during the link-up reminded about such an occurrence as hoodwinked pilgrims. Hundreds of believers can’t go to the remote kingdom every year because of dishonest tour companies. Companies collect big money from citizens, and then it turns out that they had their accreditation revoked and have no quotas.

Last summer, about 100 residents of Bashkiria who bought the tour in Hajj-Fond tourism company from Chelny didn’t manage to do the pilgrimage. After publication in Realnoe Vremya, departments of the Council of Muftis of Russia agreed to give succour to the Ufa pilgrims. Believers from Tatarstan also get into trouble. Clients of Ural service have been suffering for many years.

Our correspondent asked: “What do the spiritual directorates do to keep Muslims away from such problems?” In answer, Rushan Abbyasov advised purchasing tours only from official Hajj operators. Their list is on the website of Hajj Mission. Nowadays there are nine accredited companies, almost each of them is attached to a certain muftiate. In addition, the client must require to sign an agreement and get a receipt after payment.

“Cheap tours to the Hajj don’t exist,” the vice chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis. “If you are offered a cheap tour, without an agreement to pay in cash on the spot, know that you are seeing swindlers.”

We should remind that the State Duma offered an initiative to ban Russian tour companies from organising pilgrimage trips. It is supposed to shift the right to make such trips to religious organisations both free of charge and with it. Then the Council of Muftis of Russia and other Muslim organisations supported the deputies’ decision. The tourism industry also treated this idea with understanding.

Hajj is one of the duties of the Muslim. It includes a visit to Mecca at a certain time (during Dhu al-Hijjah) and practice of necessary customs there (a visit to the Kaaba, Mount Arafah and others).

By Timur Rakhmatullin