Samia Ahmed has been saving for the hajj pilgrimage for 16 years. The 68-year-old Egyptian, like many elderly Muslims, is frightened that a surge in virus illnesses may prohibit her from making the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ahmed said she grieved for days when the limits were announced last year, months after the coronavirus epidemic hit because she was concerned about her advanced age and worsening health.
“I paid the travel agency last year, and they confirmed that I would be performing Hajj. They even asked me to get myself and my belongings ready, which I did, but then Covid-19 spread and flights were canceled. I began to feel emotionally exhausted,” Ahmed explained.
Amina Gaafar, a 58-year-old retired Egyptian social worker, has been putting money aside for the past 30 years in order to “travel to see God.” However, with knee replacement surgery on the horizon, she is anxious that her trip days may be numbered.
“There were (alternatives to canceling hajj) such as vaccinations or check-ups, anything to allow at least 5 to 10% of worshippers to participate. I can’t guarantee my survival; I’m alive today, but I might not be tomorrow “, Gaafer explained.
Pilgrims spend roughly $6,400 to travel to Mecca for the Hajj. The fees do not include tickets, according to Mohamed Essam, the proprietor of a Cairo travel firm. Essam further stated that two-thirds of the hajj pilgrims he books are beyond the age of 60.
“Hajj prices in Egypt start between 70,000 and 75,000 pounds (about 4,500 US dollars) for the cheapest pilgrimage package, while the most expensive can cost 120,000 pounds (approximately 7,740 US dollars), and these rates do not include airline tickets,” Essam explained.
Saudi Arabia has restricted hajj to a small number of residents for the second year in a row. This ignores the millions of foreigners who travel to Mecca for the ceremony, such as Samia and Amina.