NAIROBI—Preparation for this year’s Hajj has been finalized with 4,361 people set to perform the pilgrimage in the sacred City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) national chairman, Dr Yusuf Abdulrahman Nzibo on Thursday told a press conference in Nairobi that the names of the pilgrims have been forwarded to the Saudi Arabia government’s ministry of Umrah and Hajj.
Dr Nzibo said 1,990 people registered with 23 private companies certified to provide Umrah and Hajj services while 2,371 others enlisted with agents under Kenya Hajj Mission, an entity under Supkem.
“We have submitted their names electronically to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and wired money for food, accommodation, transport and other costs through the new online payment system introduced this year,” added Dr Nzibo.
He also clarified that the deadline for Hajj registration has not be extended to July 31 maintaining the deadline expired last Sunday.
“The minister accepted our request to extend the deadline to midnight of 16 July for us to communicate to agents around the country to submit names of pilgrims, so that no one would be locked out. Supkem which is the mandated body to organize Hajj activities is not aware of the rumours of extension of the deadline,” he added.
The Supkem national chairman said due to various challenges including economic harsh times arising out of drought and post election crisis, they were not able to meet the 6,000 quotas pilgrims allocated to Kenya.
He said the quota was reduced drastically to avoid penalties of US$330 per person set under the new regulations to entities that would fail to reach the allocated ratio.
Dr Nzibo praised agents for meeting the new stringent guidelines that the Saudi Arabia’s ministry of Umrah and Hajj had set for early preparation of this year’s annual pilgrimage in the Holy City of Makkah.
“Kenya is the only country that delayed in meeting the deadline. Our delegation made several meeting with the Hajj officials in Saudi Arabia pleading for special consideration to allow our agents meet the requirements,” said Dr Nzibo.
He said the cost of pilgrimages has increased with five percent Value Added Tax (VAT) introduced this year by Saudi government and review of air tickets by airlines.
At the same time, Supkem has embarked on countrywide workshops to sensitize Umrah and Hajj agents on the need of pilgrims receiving Meningococcal meningitis, yellow fever, polio, influenza, hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines before their departure.
The first flight carrying Kenyan pilgrims will leave August 4 and the last one on August 15.
“We have started receiving visas and immigration department has set up a special desk to speed up vetting. We have a representative assisting in the process,” said Dr Nzibo