Mahmoud Ahmad & Somayya Jabarti | Arab News
Published — Thursday 29 January 2004
Last Update 29 January 2004 3:00 am
Over two million Muslims come together from all over the world to perform Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam. Despite the enormity of the task in serving the pilgrims, there are many benefits shared by all those involved, but not all of them are spiritual.
There are pilgrims who come to the Kingdom a month before Haj fully stocked with consumer products made and purchased in Russia, Nigeria, or whatever country they come from. There are those who arrive during the actual season of Haj and do business as well as perform the pilgrimage. Furthermore, there are those who arrive financially prepared to buy from the local markets and sell to fellow pilgrims. The products that are bought and sold are mostly essential consumer commodities. In addition, there is another category of pilgrims who also arrive with bulging wallets to stock up on goods in the local market and take them back home where good profits are be made.
Arab News met a number of pilgrim traders from different countries in Madinah. Mariam bint Leinaya, a woman from Mauritania, arrived three weeks ago and has been successfully conducting business. "It is Allah's generosity that enables us to benefit from Haj in both worlds, here and the hereafter. At least, this is how I see it" said Mariam. Initially, in the past, Mauritanians were most of her customers. However, over the years, the market for Mauritanian products has expanded to include other nationalities as well as the locals. "Mauritanian products also include popular cold drinks such as 'Tajmakht', a popular drink, 'Elk' native Mauritanian natural gum, and 'Aba'kak.'" The profits Mariam makes from the Haj are never less than 300 percent including expenses.
Mariam said, "I also buy and sell local products that are used during Haj such as umbrellas, batteries, flashlights and cotton mattresses, prior to my departure from the Kingdom. I re-stock in the local market, but this time to take back with me and sell when I get home." Leinaya added, "In Mauritania, the involvement of women in trade is a common phenomenon. In fact I have been doing this for at least five years, but there are others who have been doing it for even longer."
Anwar Rezq is a middle-aged Egyptian pilgrim who also does business during Haj. "I bring Egyptian products with me and sell them in the local market," said Rezq. Furthermore, he added, "I can only hope to sell everything I brought for financial gain that will support me during my stay in Saudi Arabia. It is pointless to think of buying anything on the way back because of taxation." When asked what he would like to take back with him if he could, his reply was, "Electrical items, children's toys and kitchen and bathroom appliances".
K. Ahmed, a Russian pilgrim on his first Haj, told Arab News, "Selling Russian products is a must because it is the means for me to perform Haj." It took him four days to transport his goods by bus. He said his products include Asian-made goods such as electric appliances and ornaments. Most of the customers, he said, are from Madinah. He puts down his success to the prices he charges being inexpensive "compared with other places."