By Aimen Eljali.
Tripoli, 21 August 2013:
The number of Libyans who will be able to perform Haj this year will be down . . .[restrict]to 5,600 from last year’s high of 9,000. The reason for the change is that the Saudi Arabian authorities have imposed a 20-percent cut in the number of pilgrims from all over the world because of expansion works to the Grand Mosque in Mecca. These are expected to last for 24 months.
Saudi Arabia usually operates a quota for pilgrims from Muslim countries – one pilgrim per thousand of the population. Last year, the first in which proper preparations could be made for Libyans performing Haj since the revolution, the Saudi government increased Libya’s 7,000 quota by an extra two thousand as a special gesture in recognition of the hardships Libyans had suffered for so long.
Large numbers of Libyans have applied to the Libyan Haj and Umrah Directorate to be able to perform Haj this year. Non-Libyan Muslims resident in Libya, such as Tunisians and Egyptians, do not form part of the quota and can apply for a Haj visa directly to the Saudi Embassy.
According to the Saudi Embassy in Tripoli, Haj visas will start to be issued in a fortnight’s time.
However, it was reported in Riyadh last month that, in a bid to stop Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from spreading, Haj visas would not be issued to the elderly infirm or those with illnesses such as diabetes, immune deficiencies, heart, kidney or respiratory problems, or terminal cancers. Pregnant women and children will also be barred.
This may affect many Libyan applications as there has long been a tradition in Libya of Haj being performed later on in life.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the number of Libyans given visas to perform Umrah in the past year was put at 150,000. “It is an enormous figure,” said the Saudi Ambassador to Libya, Mohammed Al-Ali. “There have been flights to Jeddah every day. Some days there are six a day.”
It is seen as reflecting Libyans’ desire to express their deep faith after the repression of the Qaddafi years.
With Haj in the middle of October this year, Haj flights are expected to start in mid-September.
Going to Medina is not part of Haj but there has long been a tradition among Libya pilgrims to do so and perform the 40 Prayers over eight days in the Prophet’s Mosque in the city. It is expected that many Libya pilgrims will fly there first before performing Haj.
Meanwhile today, Brega Oil Company announced that it will grant leave of absence for all its employees intending to perform Haj this year. According to the Libyan news agency LANA, Brega Oil has said that it would pay all Haj costs for its employees provided they had worked for the company for at least 20 years and had not been subject to any disciplinary proceedings in the past three years.
The company said it was give the leave under Clause 36 of the Employees Affairs Charter. [/restrict]