Bon Voy-Hajj! The massive bureaucracy governing the holy pilgrimage
As one of the five pillars of Islam, the ceremonies of Hajj are endowed with the most essential concepts of Islam -worship, spirituality, and social justice. In their quest to fulfill one of Islam’s five pillars as well as recovering a clean slate akin to “just coming out of their mother’s wombs”, it is no surprise that millions of Muslims flock to Mecca each year to undertake this journey of a lifetime -- or for others, for their frequent flyer experience. We at Albawaba thought to go on a journey to explore how the way to the Ka’aba is paved with red tape and, for those who can afford it -- red carpets! Continue reading below »
Mecca is supposed to be the only place on earth where people can transcend worldly vices of race, class, ideology, corruption and bureaucracy. But given that Mecca exists in a region broadly that has not escaped association with all the later woes, there is little chance for the Holy City to escape its location on the map. Existing under the patronage of the Saudi state means that its massive bureaucracy controls and monitors Big Brother-style via CCTV cameras every step of the holy journey, ranging from whether you are visa-worthy to your views on the Syrian conflict and your even toilet visits while a religious tourist in the Kingdom!
The Islamic sura, "Let there be no lewdness, abuse or arguing during Hajj” proves that Hajj is about psychological perseverance as much as it is about physical rituals. And when it comes to the subpar service by certain of the Hajj operators, and those 'customers' who complain about not getting their KFC on Mount Arafat, patience does truly prove to be a virtue and a half! Perhaps a more healthy perspective, keeping the sinning and bickering of your Hajj down and religious spirit high is that maybe the Hajj police mean well-- perhaps the Saudi government, with its overbearing anality on Hajj matters, just wants test us and allow us to earn more points with Allah.