LONDON: The first group of British Hajj pilgrims flying out from Britain’s Manchester Airport arrived in Saudi Arabia in the early hours of Sunday.
More than 250 pilgrims, including England cricketer Adil Rashid, boarded a flight from the airport on Saturday afternoon and arrived at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on Sunday morning.
Rashid will skip England’s upcoming One Day International series against India to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam.
CEO of the Council of British Hajjis Rashid Mogradia and his team of dedicated volunteers were on hand at the airport to reassure and assist pilgrims ahead of their journey.
“Given the unprecedented nature of these Hajj bookings, and as they are the first of their kind to have transferred online, it was clear that we needed to assist and provide some ground support for departing pilgrims to give them assurance and support,” Mogradia said.
This year, the way pilgrims booked Hajj changed. Aspiring pilgrims from Europe, the US and Australia were required to register for this year’s Hajj electronically at www.motawif.com.sa. Applicants were entered into a draw system and were then selected from the pool.
“The volunteers from CBHUK assisted in ushering people and helped them join the right queues. They worked with Manchester Airport staff to assist them as and when required, and with the Saudia desk to help them move the queue quickly,” Mogradia said.
“They also helped people with preparing the correct documentation including passports, visas, PCR test results and vaccination certificates, so that they could be seen to quickly. Redundant licensed Hajj organizers also assisted with these efforts,” the CBHUK CEO added.
The first group of British pilgrims traveling from London’s Heathrow Airport arrived in Jeddah on Friday evening. They were greeted on arrival by British Consul General in Jeddah Seif Usher.
The group later arrived in Makkah on Saturday and were welcomed by Abdulrahman Shams, assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Umrah affairs, as well as a number of other officials.
They were given Zamzam water, flowers and souvenirs on arrival in the holy city.
Two other groups of British pilgrims departed Heathrow and Manchester airports on Sunday.