For those of you who don’t know, Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and over two million Muslims make this pilgrimage annually. The pilgrimage slightly varies for different countries depending on the position and sighting of the moon (CNN). The trip to Mecca for Hajj is a special time for many Muslims considering the fact that it represents Islamic faith and unity. If financially and physically stable, the trip is made at least once in one’s life. The trip is not necessarily an easy one. The journey takes a grand amount of time and for many the route does not include well-equipped facilities for safe travel. The expenses can also be a significant deciding factor and in this case it is prioritized that your family comes first. For many Muslims this pilgrimage is remembered and worshiped forever. It is an opportunity that can change many lives and despite the difficulties it may bring, the journey is highly embraced.
Within the past few years, the trip to Mecca has not been the smoothest. Has this stopped people from making the journey? Absolutely not.
The most recent impact on the trip to Mecca has been the Ebola Outbreak.
Ebola Virus and the Impact on Hajj
Another factor recently came into consideration regarding the trip to Mecca for Hajj. This time, the concern was for the Ebola virus. How does the Ebola virus effect the pilgrimage? It’s simple. Millions and millions were traveling to Mecca and many people were coming from the affected areas. The outbreak led to many precautions as millions were making the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.
According to the World Health Organization, over 3,300 people have been killed from Ebola. To ensure the health and safety of everyone entering the city during Hajj, Saudi authorities decided to ban people from Sierra Leone, Libera and Guinea from getting visas because all three countries were hit by this epidemic. This affected 7,400 pilgrims from these countries (Huffington post).
Precautions made due to Ebola
Although many are not scared of contracting Ebola and there were no cases found in the kingdom, specific precautions were made such as:
• Travel advisory’s
• Restriction of Visas from affected countries
• Medical screening cards were required
• History of previous travels within the last month provided
• The use of surgical blue masks
This is not the first time precautions have been made regarding the health of all the pilgrims to Mecca. In 2013, Saudi Arabi cut back on visas to the, “young, pregnant and elderly” to prevent the infections and deaths caused by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome which is a virus that attacks the lungs and throat, according to DigitalTimes.
Many people making the trip to Mecca fear nothing because they let their faith guide them on the journey. A recent pilgrim, Zaid Sjaz Amanea from the UK said he felt safe because it is god’s house he is traveling too (Washington Post).
A touch of Faith
Despite many threats made to Mecca regarding health concerns or attacks from other terrorist groups, the people making the pilgrimage are passionate about the intrinsic value that the trip holds. It is a life-changing experience for many and the difficulties the trip brings are put aside. Millions of people are coming together for the same reason and I find it truly amazing how these travelers glow with faith and unity in their religion. It is a time for Muslims of all backgrounds to finally connect with one another, which brings power to so many. From an outsider looking in, there is beauty in the people making the daring trip, especially when there are huge concerns of health such as the Ebola outbreak.
A letter From Mecca written by Malcom X reveals a specific case of how the journey changed him,
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors … from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”
In regards to the major concerns for health and safety that have been addressed in Mecca, this excerpt is just one example of how powerful Hajj can be. This is just one example of how someone’s life was changed and it makes it easier to understand how all the big worries could seem very small to the people on this journey.