US Olympic medalist Ibtihajj Muhammad reflects on her Hajj journey

Muslim American Olympian Ibtihajj Muhammad. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 28 August 2018
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US Olympic medalist Ibtihajj Muhammad reflects on her Hajj journey

  • Ibtihajj Muhammad: The best experiences was seeing people from different parts of the world unite in devotion to their faith
  • The American Olympian lauded the Kingdom's efforts for the organization of Hajj this year

MINA: Muslim American Olympian Ibtihajj Muhammad, who performed Hajj this year, told Arab News that during her pilmgrimage one of the best experiences was seeing people from different parts of the world unite in devotion to their faith. 

“It is something as a Muslim growing up and living in the US that you don’t get the opportunity to see. I feel I get that sense when I travel to the Middle East, particularly this trip to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj — it is something I will never forget,” she said. 

Ibtihajj did not know she was coming to Saudi Arabia for Hajj until about three weeks before it began. She was invited by Dar Al Islam travel agency. “I felt like it was something Allah called on me to perform Hajj and I was very excited. I was also very apprehensive and did not know what to expect; as you read and try to prepare for the journey it is more than anything you can anticipate. It feels like a blessing and I am really excited,” she said.

Ibtihajj said her visa process was easy and fast; it took one day to obtain. Her journey was long due to the fact that she traveled from Los Angeles, California and had a few flights before arriving to Saudi Arabia.

The American Olympian lauded the Kingdom's efforts for the organization of Hajj this year. “To the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I thank you for having me; it has been a really transformative experience.” In her opinion Saudi Arabia had done a really good job to accommodate millions of people; she said that she can only imagine how difficult it is.

Ibtihajj felt that Madinah was one of the most peaceful places that she has been to during her trip to Saudi Arabia and said it was a great starting point to prepare and acclimatize to “Saudi Arabia and to prepare for Hajj itself.” 

“Once I had arrived to see the Kaaba for the first time — it is something that you read about it and hear about from your parents — but to see it for the first time for yourself and to see so many pilgrims walking around it was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. It is something that you dream of and you pray that Allah invites you, so to have the opportunity to do that was very exciting,” she said.

Ibtihajj Muhammad is a member of the US fencing team. She is best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the US in the Olympics. She earned bronze at the Games, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.


Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

Updated 8 min 55 sec ago
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Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

  • Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks
  • At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database

DHAKA: Pre-immigration facilities provided by Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrims in Bangladesh have helped reduce waiting times by several hours after their arrival at airports in the Kingdom, several of them said on Wednesday.
The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah initiative, whereby pilgrims can complete immigration at airports in their home country instead of doing it on arrival in the Kingdom.
From this year, Bangladeshi pilgrims are enjoying pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka airport.
“Among the 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims, this year 60,500 of them will have the opportunity to complete the immigration formalities at Dhaka airport,” Bangladeshi Religious Affairs Secretary Anisur Rahman told Arab News.
“From next year, all Bangladeshi pilgrims will enjoy this pre-immigration system at Dhaka airport.”
Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks. Three Saudi organizations are working at Dhaka airport to accomplish these tasks.
At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database.
In addition, at the immigration counter officials take photographs of the pilgrims, Rahman said.
“The pre-immigration system was supposed to be launched from the first Hajj flight on July 4, but due to technical issues we couldn’t do that on the first day. However, things are now running very smoothly,” he added.
Abdul Kayum Bepari, a Bangladeshi pilgrim who completed his Saudi immigration formalities at Dhaka airport, told Arab News: “It’s an amazing experience. All immigration formalities were completed within a minute. When I performed Hajj in 2011, it took more than four hours for me to complete the immigration formalities at the Saudi airport.”
Bangladeshi pilgrim Sadek Ali told Arab News: “Everything is very disciplined. This pre-immigration system has truly eased the hassle of thousands of Bangladeshi pilgrims.”
Pilgrim Bulbuli Begum told Arab News: “My Saudi immigration formalities took only a few seconds to be completed.”
Pre-immigration support for Bangladeshi pilgrims will continue until the last Hajj flight, which is scheduled on Aug. 5.
“We’re trying to ensure maximum support and comfort to the pilgrims,” said a Saudi immigration official at Dhaka airport.
“They don’t even need to worry about luggage. Once the pilgrims land at a Saudi airport, they’ll immediately board hotel-bound buses and will receive their luggage at the hotel.”