CAIRO – Putting Dutch Muslims hajj dream on hold, the economic crisis has cut the number of those planning to go to the soul-searching journey to Makkah this year by half, affecting hundreds of Dutch Muslim pilgrims, the Dutch News reported on Wednesday, September 25.
"Muslims have often used to save money for six years to go on Hajj,” one employee at Badr Travel from Amsterdam told Trouw on Wednesday.
“With so little coming through the crisis, they just cannot pay more," he added.
Over the past years, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia used to offer 5000 hajj visas to sixteen agencies registered in Netherlands each year.
Each visa for all-inclusive trips was offered against 3500 to 5000 Euros. Yet, this has changed after the economic crisis which affected the income of all Dutch people, including Muslims.
"I'm scared, really. But I cannot make it cheaper," a worried Alkisaei Ali, owner of Wadi Alrafidein Travel in Maastricht, added.
The economic crisis was not the only problem facing Muslim pilgrims to Makkah this year.
Last June, Saudi Arabia announced its plan to restrict the number of pilgrims for this year’s hajj over ongoing expansions at the holy sites in Makkah.
Saudi authorities said they will reduce the numbers of pilgrims coming from within the kingdom by half.
The numbers of overseas pilgrims will be reduced by 20 percent.
Facing many troubles this year, some travel agencies consider next year cheaper pilgrimages.
"Perhaps I’ll choose hotels with fewer stars,” Alkisaei from Maastricht said.
“Now I book a five-star hotel in Makkah, but it can also be a three-star which will be at a greater distance from al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Makkah..."
Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.
Millions of Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Hajj is officially expected to fall between October 13 and 18.
Related Links:Dutch Muslims Celebrate Converts Day
Success Story of Dutch Muslim Immigrants
Holland Toughens Conditions for Muslims
Far-right Dutch Politician Finds Islam
Dutch Muslim MP Urges Anti-Terror Fatwa