JEDDAH, 5 December 2005 — A number of flights of various airlines bringing in pilgrims for the annual pilgrimage started landing on Saturday at the Haj Terminal in Jeddah and the Madinah airport. The Haj Terminal was officially opened on Saturday.
Pilgrims from India and Pakistan were among the first to land.
The very first Indian flight to the Kingdom was Air-India’s flight No. AI-5101 from Srinagar, according to a press release of the Indian Consulate. It landed at Jeddah airport at 6.20 p.m. and was received by Indian Ambassador M.O.H. Farook and other officials.
The first Indian flight at Madinah airport was operated by the Saudi Arabian Airlines. It arrived from Delhi and landed at 6.45 p.m. The flight was received by Consul General Dr. Ausaf Sayeed and Haj Committee of India Chairman Tanveer Ahmed.
Overall 1,692 pilgrims arrived from India on the very first day. Of them, 1,276 arrived in Madinah. For the first time Air-India is operating flights to Madinah airport and flights from Calicut and Calcutta landed at the Madinah airport on the first day.
All pilgrims arriving in Madinah for the first eight days will be accommodated in the Marakazaiya area, the release added.
A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight carrying 455 pilgrims landed in Jeddah from Islamabad on Saturday, marking the arrival of the first group of Pakistani Haj pilgrims.
A ceremonial welcome was given to Pakistan’s first group of pilgrims, including a few in wheelchair, by a contingent comprising Minister of State Dr. Aamer Liaquat Hussain, Ambassador Abdul Aziz Mirza, Consul General Masood Akhtar, Director General Haj Shahid Khan, Director Haj Bahrullah Hazarvi, Consul (press) Muhammad Jameel, PIA General Manager Col. Talat Umer, PIA Station Manager and former Olympian Shahnaz Shaikh, and PIA Western Region Manager Ali Gul Kalhoro. Among the first group of pilgrims were octogenarian Makhan Khan and 14-year-old Hafiz Bashir Ahmed,
In fact, the actual Haj operation of PIA began with the arrival of regular flights from Pakistan yesterday. Eight to nine Haj flights will be coming daily, with the gap of an hour or two. Each flight will have more than 450 pilgrims on board.
PIA’s Madinah operations begin today, with three flights bringing in pilgrims. In all 54 Haj flights will be landing in Madinah.
Meanwhile, Seyed Alavi Mowlana, Sri Lanka’s governor for Western Province and adviser to the country’s president on Islamic affairs, arrived in Jeddah yesterday to oversee the country’s Haj arrangements.
Mowlana’s visit precedes the arrival of Sri Lankan pilgrims who are due to start arriving on Saturday, Dec. 10. He will hold discussions with Masihudeen Inamullah, Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Jeddah regarding the 7,500 pilgrims who will be arriving from Colombo during this season.