It has been recently announced by the National Hajj Commission that this year, the cost per person shall not exceed four hundred and sixty thousand dalasis. The Hajj Commission is the body mandated to coordinate annual pilgrimage in The Gambia to Saudi Arabia.
The Commission has also revealed that about thirteen hajj operators are expected to fly pilgrims out to the Holy Land this year. The Commission assured the public that they are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that Gambian pilgrims perform this religious duty with ease and comfort.
This early announcement signifies that the Commission is aware of the numerous challenges faced by pilgrims in Makkah in the recent past. Last year, many pilgrims complained of the difficult conditions they encountered when they were in Saudi Arabia.
Some pilgrims complained of the poor and inadequate accommodation while they were there to fulfill the rights of hajj. It was reported that some pilgrims had to trek kilometers from their hotels in order to reach the Holy Sites as there was inadequate transport arrangements.
In fact, there were reports of a certain operator who was not licenced yet he went around collecting monies from would-be pilgrims who could not later perform the hajj. This is totally unacceptable and everything must be done to prevent unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of Gambians and causing them untold harm and suffering.
The National Hajj Commission therefore should work hand in hand with the Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs to put measures in place which will ensure that the pilgrims do not encounter any hardships when they go for Hajj.
There is also a silver lining as the Commission revealed that The Gambia has regained its full quota of two thousand pilgrims as opposed to the limited number it was allowed during the Covid-19 years.
Both the Hajj Commission and the Ministry of Lands, Regional Governments and Religious Affairs are therefore commended for beginning this process early this year so as to resolve all unforeseen challenges in an adequate and timely manner.