Kurdish Hajj pilgrims on a religious journey to Islam's holy city of Mecca. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdish Ministry for Religious Affairs will collect more than $16 million from 4,500 Kurdish pilgrims planning to journey to Islam’s holy city of Mecca in 2017, it was revealed when the ministry published the names of the region's pilgrims.
Of 86,000 applicants across the region who had registered to perform their religious duty of Hajj, more than 13,000 in total were randomly selected through an electronic lottery for the years of 2017, 2018, and 2019, according to the ministry.
The people who go on the holy pilgrimage of Hajj have to pay about $3,600 for flight tickets, hotels and meals, according to the ministry.
Haji Halgurd, Head of the Religious Directorate in the Hajj and Umrah Department, explained the process that has been implemented for selecting the pilgrims.
“We divided Kurdistan into 19 zones. The share of the families of martyrs was 40 to 45 in the past, but the minister decreed the number to be increased to 90,” Halgurd said.
In Erbil 1,500 people, 1,400 in Sulaimani, 1,090 in Duhok, 120 in Halabja, and 250 in Garmiyan block have been selected.
At least 90 guides will also accompany the pilgrims.
In 2016, the KRG collected $5 million in revenues from Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
Last year 85,000 people from Kurdistan applied for the religious journey, far more than what Kurdistan is allocated. As of February 2016, only 2,000 people visited Saudi Arabia, the official figures show.
In 2016, the ministry estimated that the Kurdish pilgrims to Mecca would spend around $20 million there in 2016, as over 10,000 people from the region were expected to make the pilgrimage.
With the Al-Masjid al-Haram premises in Mecca around the Kaaba expanding, the number of visitors across the world is expected to increase this year, including those from Kurdistan.
Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, regarded as the most holy place in Islam, is a mandatory religious duty for every Muslim who is physically and financially capable of the journey during the last month of the Islamic calendar at least once in their lifetime.
The pilgrims, however, can visit Mecca at any time of the year, which is then seen as an Umrah, not a mandatory duty, but only as respecting commandments.
To cope with the increase in visitors, large hotels have been built and around thousands of tents been put up in Mina, outside Mecca to accommodate pilgrims during Hajj.