Hajj tours for Tatarstan residents twice as costlier

The republic is given back the pre-COVID-19 quota for pilgrimage to Mecca

1,800 Tatarstan residents will be able to go on pilgrimage to holy places of Mecca and Medina this year — the republic is back to its habitual quota that existed before the pandemic. Russia is allowed to send a total of 25,000 people to do the Hajj and Umrah this year. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report how sanctions influences the organisation of pilgrimage and how the tour cost rose.

“We postponed these mundane desires and decided to spend the money on the Hajj”

Father of three Aydar Nizamov from Vysokaya Gora District has been dreaming about doing the Hajj for many years now but hasn’t managed to do it for some reason. The young family built a house, then renovated it and planned to do the pilgrimage with his wife. But all Mighty decided it otherwise — the pair had a third child, the wife had to refuse her intentions for some time. The family decided the husband would go alone.

“I started to plan the Hajj thoroughly last year. Of course, I thought about financial possibilities first. We had just finished the renovation. Fortunately, it ended quickly enough. But humans always need something, we started to think if we should start building a sauna or garage with the accumulated money but postponed these mundane desires and decided to spend the money on the Hajj. The situation in the world isn’t calm now, who knows what will happen in the future, this is why it is necessary to take advantage of the occasion,” the man thinks.

Aydar is a constructor. He has a degree in biotechnology, worked in this sphere for six years. He quit last year and started to do only construction works. The Tatarstan resident is going to do the Hajj for the first time.

“I am taking evening courses at Salyakh Mosque now. We are explained everything, given deep knowledge. I am going to start preparing for the pilgrimage seriously after Ramadan,” the interlocutor of the newspaper shared.

The man chose a private company to organise the Hajj tour. As he admitted, he didn’t have any special reasons — so there were circumstances. According to him, prices have seriously increased over the last year. If earlier economy class pilgrimage could be done for 150,000, now this bar has risen to 350,000 rubles.

“I liked these words: ‘No matter how many you pay, 300, 500 or 900,000, the Hajj will anyway be accepted by Allah.’ I chose the economy tour. First we will have to fly to Dubai and then get to Saudi Arabia and holy places by bus. Such an option of travel attracted me, firstly, because of the price, secondly, because of the opportunity of seeing many unfamiliar and interesting places with my own eyes,” Aydar explained.

Ilyas Gimadov, an owner of a construction company, have done the Hajj and Umrah several times now, but he went to the holy places for the first time in 2018. As the entrepreneur admitted, after being there once, you will always want to go there:

“According to Sharia, every Muslim should do the Hajj if they can — if they have money and physical health. But I often hear such an excuse like ‘I am aren’t yet ready’, ‘I will go later when I get older.’ I think it is a wrong opinion. This is what I used to think too. One should not wait for an old age to do the Hajj.”

For the first time, of course, one should go only through tried and tested companies, it is a way better if the newcomer is accompanied by experienced people or mentors, the interlocutor of the newspaper is convinced. He gave practical tips for those who are going to do the pilgrimage for the first time:

“One has to walk 25-30km by foot during the Hajj. This, of course, causes certain difficulties. This is why one should get used to walking a lot a month or two before the trip. Moreover, now, when people lost the habit of doing it, while one has to constantly walk in holy places. The organism should get accustomed. It is mandatory to buy a comfortable pair of shoes and wear it here. There aren’t usually problems with food. There is enough, however, it depends on the tour you chose: economy, standard, VIP. But one should understand that Arab cuisine and local dishes are very spicy. They don’t suit us at all, in general we aren’t accustomed to it. They have their own type of qatyq — ayran. It is very delicious and helps well. If taken regularly, the digestive system will be fine. If you have chronic diseases, one should certainly take care of the first aid kit.”

The businessman says that besides physical training, financial issues, one shouldn’t forget the spiritual component of pilgrimage:

“Pilgrimage, of course, is stress for the organism, both climate and physical exercise influence it. But let’s remember how the Hajj used to be done in the past. People sometimes spent six months or a year of their lives on pilgrimage. Some died on the road, covered this long path with great difficulties. There aren’t such difficulties now, but you will anyway have challenges on your way, and this is fine. A car can break down, water can run out, having a lot of patience is the most important thing. Allah is putting us to the test.”

As Realnoe Vremya was told in the press service of the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate, this year there aren’t specific quotas for regions, as many seats as requested are provided, according to demand. But in the end the number of pilgrims cannot exceed the general quota for Russia — it is 25,000 seats. In Tatarstan it is planned to offer 1,800 seats, like before the pre-pandemic period.

“This year we are working as usual. Russia has been given a quota like in 2020, that’s to say, like before the pandemic. Last year, it was 60% lower. The consumer demand will be known at the end of the Hajj season. The price of tours has changed. First of all, the dollar rate influences the pricing,” the Muslim Religious Directorate said.

Hajj operators have already started accepting applications for the Hajj this year. The season of pilgrimage to the holy places of Mecca and Medina will start approximately from 8 June and last until 20 July. The specifics of this year are that all age restrictions that were imposed earlier due to the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the world have been lifted for pilgrims.

Four Hajj programmes from 360 to 962,000 rubles depending on the hotel and distance from Al-Haram Mosque, duration of the trip, route (plane or combined — plane and bus), food (twice a day or buffet), sacrifice on the programme and a number of other services were designed for pilgrims in Tatarstan.

All tours include travel and transfer expenses, accommodation in Mecca and Medina, accommodation and food in the valleys of Araf, Mina, health care, imam support — a manager who speaks Arabic, Tatar and Russian and knows Sharia law — paperwork and training, zam-zam water and a Hajji kit regardless of the price category. The pilgrim kit includes all the necessary literature and a backpack.

The economy combo tour is the cheapest: the pilgrim will first have to go to the United Arab Emirates by plane, then reach Saudi Arabia by bus. Such a trip option will cost 360,000 rubles this year. The economy avia where the whole trip can be made by plane is 40,000 more expensive. There aren’t big differences between these packages. In both cases, people will live in pilgrim houses or in hotel rooms for 4-6 people.

The standard tour is the next upgrade, a tour will cost 464,000 rubles. The difference is that the accommodation is in a hotel room for 3-5 people, close location to the mosque and buffet.

The priciest tour will cost a VIP pilgrim nearly a million rubles (962,800 rubles). The cost includes two-way flights, transfer in comfortable buses from the airport to the hotel and back, between the cities, including during excursions. Also, it is accommodation at five-star Mecca and Medina hotels, buffet and the full pilgrim kit. However, people won’t be able to stay in a hotel room alone, rooms are designed for 2-4 people in a tour for a million.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova