Muslims planning to perform the annual Hajj ritual next year will have to start preparations early following the announcement of new restrictions imposed by the host country, Saudi Arabia.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and an adult Muslim is expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Next year’s Hajj will begin on June 14 and end on June 22 in the Holy City of Mecca.
The Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims (Supkem) chairman Sheikh Hassan Ole Naado said the new regulations will see them use 50 approved agents, down from 70 this year due to the stringent measures taken by Saudi Arabia.
“Prospective pilgrims are advised to deal strictly with approved agents for the 2024 Hajj and are strongly discouraged from using brokers and/or other middlemen who are not approved to ensure the safety of the monies they pay for the Hajj,” Mr Naado said.
In order to avoid last-minute rush, Saudi Arabia has instructed Supkem, in cooperation with those who will make the pilgrimage, to pay 20 per cent of the total cost by October 20 this year. The remaining amount should be paid by March 1, 2024.
“It is important to note that this amount of Hajj cost goes directly to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and therefore does not include air tickets, accommodation, meals and other logistics for each pilgrim,” Mr Naado added.
Supkem also announced that the visa application process has also been given a strict deadline of 59 days, with all pilgrims expected to apply between March 1 and April 29, 2024. It has therefore urged the Ministry of Interior, through Immigration, to begin processing and issuing passports on a priority basis to Kenyan applicants intending to perform Hajj in 2024.
At the same time, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Affairs has increased the number of pilgrims expected from Kenya from 4,500 to 10,000. However, Mr Naidoo said they have decided to work with the usual 4,500 because of the harsh economic times in the country.