RIYADH: British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis said the British Embassy offered its services for 18,500 British pilgrims who came to Makkah, in addition to serving 70,000 Umrah pilgrims who visited the holy capital this year.
He said Britain’s share of pilgrims decreased in past years by 20 percent because of the expansion work in Makkah.
The ambassador said Saudi authorities, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, provided services and security to enable pilgrims to perform the Haj pilgrim despite the Arabic language barrier and the hot Saudi weather.
He said the team of the general consulate in Jeddah was ready to serve British pilgrims who reached Makkah, through a 24-hour emergency hotline, to offer help to pilgrims and distribute publications that have all details for services that the embassy offers.
He said Saudi authorities made pilgrims’ departures and arrivals easy, even in the hall that was congested during the Haj season. He pointed out that the journey from London to Jeddah takes six hours, and for those who depart from Manchester, it takes six and a half hours.
He said the number of Muslims in Britain reached 2.8 million, according to 2011 figures, which is 4.5 percent of the total population.
He said some Muslims who perform the Haj more than once can do so every five years according to Saudi law, and Haj organizers prepare educational campaigns to enable pilgrims to know all correct practices.He said the embassy listed all information needed by pilgrims on its electronic website, in addition to information listed on the embassy’s website in London.
Cameroon Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Aya Tijani said 3,650 pilgrims from Cameroon left Makkah after performing Haj, which is less than 12 percent in comparison with last year.
He said the Cameroon diplomatic mission provided pilgrims with the necessary services the minute they reach Madinah until they leave Jeddah, saying that starting the next Haj season, food and chefs will be brought from Cameroon because different food and the long distance from the Kaaba is one of the obstacles that face them.
He said pilgrims suffer difficulties the minute they arrive, but everyone is aware that these procedures are put in place to protect Haj pilgrims. He said normally Cameroon pilgrims fly from northern Djibouti, or from the southern areas, and this year the national carrier and Nas easily transported pilgrims.
He said the national mission organizes sending pilgrims to perform Haj, and its share is usually 8,000, but they rarely reach this figure.
The ambassador said preparations for Haj season are preceded by lectures and seminars through media sources so that they reach the holy sites ready to perform their worship.
He said Cameroon has a population of 25 million, with Muslims forming 40 percent. The history of Cameroon has not witnessed any religious struggles.
Azerbaijan Ambassador Rasim Radayif said 1,050 pilgrims performed Haj this year and departed for Azerbaijan, which is mainly Muslim, forming 99 percent of the total population of 10 million.
He said the journey from the capital Baku to Jeddah takes three and a half hours, and the cost of Haj doesn’t exceed $3,000 according to the provided service.
The ambassador said pilgrims from Azerbaijan don’t face any obstacles and this year the national air carrier overcame this problem by operating six flights in three days.
He said Azerbaijan pilgrims were taken care of, and the embassy offered all possible aid to them. He said Muslims who wish to perform Haj can apply to the Caucasus Muslim Directorate which represents the Azerbaijan mission, and which took care of coordination and approving the names of pilgrims.
He said some have performed Haj more than once, and they respect their wishes; the Caucasus administration educates pilgrims and explains to them phases of Haj before they reach Makkah.
He said Haj is a worship that is dedicated to God, and those who come to perform Haj should have one goal in mind, which is to worship God and stay away from political issues. He said everyone values the role of Saudi Arabia in bearing the Haj responsibility, and providing pilgrims with care and protection.