Aceh Province’s residents, who registered for going on hajj to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, starting from 2022, are on a 31-year waiting list, a local government official stated.
“Some 129,119 residents of Aceh Province have registered for hajj,” Head of the West Aceh Office for Religious Affairs Khairul Azhar noted in a statement here, Wednesday.
The waiting time for being able to depart for the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca could be longer owing to the global pandemic of COVID-19 that has also been affecting Saudi Arabia since 2020, he pointed out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly prompted the Government of Saudi Arabia to impose travel restrictions for those keen to perform hajj and umrah (minor hajj).
As a result of the travel curbs imposed amid the pandemic, Indonesia’s hajj pilgrims, including those from Aceh, have been unable to go to Mecca since 2020, he remarked.
This condition has extended the length of the waiting list, he noted, adding that during the hajj season, Aceh has the opportunity to send 4,359 residents for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
The hajj pilgrims come from 23 districts all over Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province that lies on the northern tip of Sumatra Island.
Speaking in connection with the hajj season in Mecca, Chairperson of the Honorary Council of the Indonesian Hajj Brotherhood Association (IPHI) Jusuf Kalla is optimistic of normalcy being restored for conducting the hajj pilgrimage in 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic had impeded hajj pilgrimage in 2020 and 2021, with pilgrims performing hajj rituals under coronavirus restrictions, Kalla stated.
Meanwhile, ANTARA reported earlier that Saudi Arabia had lifted the suspension on direct flights from Indonesia, effective from December 1, 2021.
According to Director General of Hajj and Umrah at the Religious Affairs Ministry, Hilman Latief, the decision taken by the Saudi Arabian aviation authority also applies to flights for Umrah pilgrims.
However, it does not imply that Indonesian Umrah pilgrims can be dispatched immediately on December 1, 2021, as several arrangements must be made, including the ones related to the pilgrims’ data collection, service preparations, and visa processing.
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