Only nine of the 30 licensed Haj operators (who take pilgrims for Haj to Saudi Arabia) are in business this year as the Saudi authorities have slashed Qatar’s quota of pilgrims to 1,200.
Haj quotas have been reduced for all countries around the world as hectic development work is going on in the holy Haram area so the usual number of pilgrims cannot be accommodated.
With barely 1,200 pilgrims who can go for Haj from Qatar, the 30 operators would on average get 40 pilgrims each to serve.
This would be against the rules of the Haj Committee at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
However, according to local Arabic daily Al Raya, the situation this year is such that some operators got barely five or six pilgrims so they were forced to forward them to the other operators — to those who had more pilgrims registered with them. This way, only nine of the 30 operators got enough pilgrims to be in business this year.
An operator, Jassem Mohamed Al Hardan, from Al Tauba Group, said that out of the 1,200 pilgrims who are going for Haj this year, 800 will be travelling by air and the remaining 400 by land. He said that the cost for each pilgrim travelling by air works out to between QR36,000 and QR40,000 ($9,886 to $10,984) this year.
Despite paying so much the pilgrim would have to share a room with the other pilgrims in the famed Al Saa Tower in Makkah. He said that Al Saa Tower is very expensive and the rent for a room for a few days here works out to QR40,000 to QR45,000.
According to Al Hardan, he will be renting out two halls (one for male pilgrims, the other for women) for lectures etc at Al Saa Tower for the pilgrims travelling with him, for a total of QR260,000. Besides, he will be providing accommodation to the guide and administrator.
He said there are other operators who are charging up to QR17,000 per pilgrim but their services are not good.
He said he had launched a promotion campaign and slashed his rates to QR25,000 to QR27,000 but there were no takers.
Another operator, Mohamed Yusuf Al Hammadi said that the pilgrims going by land were being charged QR12,000 per head. Yet another operator, Hassan Abdul Rahman, from Al Huda Campaign, said that his prices ranged from QR34,000 to QR37,000.
Still another operator, Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, from Al Taqwa group, said that some of the 1,200 pilgrims had withdrawn on health grounds.
The Haj season is in the first week of October so pilgrims will begin travelling in the last week of this month.
Al Ibrahim said that this time the difference between land and air travel for Haj was huge.
He said that the Saudi authorities had awarded the contract for internal transport and catering for the pilgrims in Makkah to specific companies. This would likely raise prices due to monopoly.
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