Hajj homecomings and pilgrims’ gifts, past and the present

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A Muslim man shops for souvenirs and gifts at a shop in Makkah on Aug. 23, 2018, after completing his Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)
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Pilgrips shop for souvenirs and gifts at a shop in Makkah on Aug. 23, 2018, after completing their Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)
Updated 23 August 2018

Hajj homecomings and pilgrims’ gifts, past and the present

  • Long ago, they were simple, including hummus, nuts, sweets and toys for kids; now, they might include Zamzam water, gold and dates
  • In the old days, a special chair was made from wood and palm leaves for pilgrims to sit on the day they returned from Hajj

MINA: Since ancient times, there have been customs and traditions associated with Hajj, not least the joyous celebrations to welcome pilgrims home from their spiritual retreat and, of course, the gifts pilgrims bring back for relatives and neighbors. As larger numbers of people from the world began to participate in the Hajj, the customs spread to all pilgrims, not only Arabs.

The nature of the gifts has changed over the years. Long ago, they were simple, including hummus, nuts, sweets and toys for kids. Now, they might include Zamzam water, gold and dates. Some of the pilgrims at this year’s Hajj shared their memories of homecoming celebrations and gifts from years gone by, and the gifts they will take home this year.

Massaad Al-Otaiby from Taif recalled the customs he remembers from about 60 years ago. He said people of Taif held a gathering called Sararah to celebrate the safe return of their relatives from Hajj. It was a happy and joyful family event, during which pilgrims placed pieces of cake on children’s heads, and everyone took part in folk dancing. The pilgrims brought toys for the children, such as models of horses and camels, along with photographs of the Prophet’s Mosque, the Grand Mosque and other historical landmarks.

Satti Al-Dumaihi, a Saudi, said that in the old days, typical gifts included hummus and candy, which the children loved to receive. Now, pilgrims return with gifts such as Zamzam water, mats and copies of the Holy Qur’an.

Nasser Al-Azimi, from Kuwait, said the gifts for his family will include djellabas for the men, miswak teeth-cleaning twigs, Zamzam water and prayer mats. “Gifts are essential and have become a ritual in our Kuwaiti society,” he added.

Indonesian pilgrim Tomi Satryatomo said Hajj gifts are also part of the customs of his country, and that he will take home dates, which are hard to find in Indonesia, Zamzam water, Saudi abayas, robes and miswak. Some pilgrims like to buy gold in Saudi Arabia, he added, because of its high quality and affordable prices compared with Indonesia.

Medhi Khifaji, a Saudi, said that in the old days, a special chair was made from wood and palm leaves for pilgrims to sit on the day they returned from Hajj. People would also paint their houses white and chant a special song as the pilgrims returned bearing gifts, including Zamzam water and dates from Madinah.


All-female Saudi tourist group explores wonders of Tabuk

Updated 21 October 2019

All-female Saudi tourist group explores wonders of Tabuk

  • About 20 women from different parts of the Kingdom took part in the sightseeing trip to the province bordering the Red Sea

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first all-female tourist group has explored the environmental and archaeological wonders of Tabuk in the northwest of the Kingdom.

About 20 women from different parts of the Kingdom took part in the sightseeing trip to the province bordering the Red Sea.

“They were astonished to see such sights in their country, especially the area of Ras Al-Sheikh Humaid,” said Heba Al-Aidai, a tour guide in Tabuk who organized the trip.

“They did not expect to see such a place in Saudi Arabia. They looked speechless while standing close to the turquoise water of the sea. It is a truly breathtaking view.”

Al-Aidai and her colleague Nafla Al-Anazi promoted the trip on social media and attracted a group of homemakers, teachers and staff workers from all over the Kingdom, aged from 22 to over 50.

The tour was educational, too, and the women were told about the history of the places they visited. “They were taken to the Caves of Shuaib (Magha’er Shuaib), the place where Prophet Moses fled after leaving Egypt, and where he got married to one of the daughters of Prophet Shuaib, according to some historians. It was really a positive experience,” Al-Aidai said.

The visitors also explored Tayeb Ism, a small town in northwestern Tabuk, where there is a well-known gap in the towering mountains through which water runs throughout the year.

Al-Aidai said such trips aim to encourage tourism in Tabuk, and introduce Saudi tourists and other visitors to the landmarks of the region.