Doing Hajj like a celebrity: VIP Packages on the increase
Performing the holy pilgrimage of Hajj can be costly, prices can be as high as Dhs 75,000 ($20,418.72) for a citizen of the Emirates, and Dhs 83,000 for other nationalities, according to popular travel operator Dnata in the UAE.
However this is pocket change considering the price tag attached to Hajj VIP packages, pilgrims can be set back as much as Dhs 250,000 per person to perform this spiritual journey in worldly luxury.
Traveling with Dnata, this sum of money will ensure you two first class tickets on Emirates airlines, and layovers at world renowned hotels such as the Fairmont in Mecca and the Mina tower.
Furthermore, transport throughout the pilgrimage will be provided in the form of a private car.
According to one official at the General authority of Islamic affairs and endowments in the UAE, such packages are not very popular as most people enjoy performing the pilgrimage en masse, living and travelling with their co-believers, the cost is viewed as excessive for a journey that is supposed to cement the equality of all humans.
However, there have been no Shari’a based complaints according to the official at the Islamic authority, who wished to remain nameless, the Hajj VIP package does not cross the official boundaries of what is acceptable in Islam.
“As long as the VIP treatment doesn’t extend to the actual rites of Hajj it should be fine,” there is no blame on people if they wish to live in a 5 star hotel during the event,” he said “so long as they participate in the stoning of the shaitan (the devil, represented by stone pillars) along with everybody else,” he added as an example.
He went on to say that some people simply want the ease that comes along with a VIP Hajj package; staying at a hotel closer to the Ka’aba and traveling in comfort.
The general authority of Islamic affairs is tasked with regulating and overseeing the performance of Hajj travel providers.
Although Dnata’s representative told Al Arabiya that the VIP packages had not received any official complaints over the price, many Muslims have voiced the opinion that the costs are excessive.
“Even the normal price is too expensive,” said Sehba Sayed Wahid, a British national living in Dubai, “we just want to pray and perform the journey that is obligatory for us Muslims, the price does make that difficult, I know people who have been saving for years to perform Hajj.”