The ultimate Muslim sacrifice: short-cuts to the Hajj

Published October 25th, 2012 - 13:37 GMT

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An Arab worker cannot afford Hajj easily
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Image 1 of 11: The cost of getting there varies by country, and pilgrim package. In Egypt, where the average annual salary is $6,600 a pilgrim pays around $3000. But in nearby Syria, pilgrims now face a whopping $25,000 charge (versus pre-conflict 1,000-3,000): five times the local salary.

Pilgrims on Hajj can grab a power coffee at Starbucks, Medina
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Image 1 of 11: Deluxe pilgrimage: Hajj-Vegas was a term coined for the uncanny spending habit that can accompany the VIP spiritual journey. Whether you're sipping a mocha in Starbucks, Medina, or crashing in a 5-star hotel in Mecca with a premium view of the sacred black stone 'kabba', there are many ways to avoid slumming it with the common folk.

Pilgrims to Saudi accompanied by their male guardians or mahram
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Image 1 of 11: Double the journey to Hajj: expenses add up when you break the rules. An airline mix-up meant a whole troupe of Nigerian women got turned away for not having male guardians (mahram). That extra deportation bill should ensure they remember to keep their men about them next time!

Hajj by air: Airlines offer pilgrim deals
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Image 1 of 11: Speedy Hajj: arriving at the destination by air can save time and avoid the land rush. Many airlines operate extra trips to Saudi with some package deals included. Plus if you skip Medina - not a compulsory leg - you save 3 or 4 days to spend marveling at those Mecca hotspots.

Jordanian army
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Image 1 of 11: With a little help from the armed forces: In nations with particularly wealthy armies, the military or some other national body offer to subsidize Hajj experiences for those in need. Jordanian citizens benefit from army grants that can make all the difference between watching the Hajj on TV and living the pilgrim dream.

AUB campus, Beirut Lebanon
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Image 1 of 11: Spring break? To really cut costs and corners in the Hajj quest, look no further than your local university. Many of them now run ‘field trips’ for students to Mecca and Medina, taking care of all the logistics for them.

Bosnian man Senad Hadzic
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Image 1 of 11: Cheap and cheerful: alternatively, you can always do it on the mega-cheap and take a hike. If you choose to skip transport altogether, like the Bosnian pilgrim who walked the whole 6,000 km, you’ll save the hefty Hajj bill but might have to give up the better part of your year, and foot health.

Wasta to Hajj
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Image 1 of 11: Fast-tracking that coveted Hajj permit: to get around the strict age regulations and individual country quotas, some people tap into well connected friends and relatives to get temporary residency in the Gulf before going.

metro at Mecca and Medina
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Image 1 of 11: Metro-Mecca: There's been talk for a while that modern infrastructure is in the works to add a touch of speed to the pedestrian 10-day pilgrimage. This year the newly launched Mecca Metro will carry up to 80,000 passengers an hour. The Mecca-Medina railway line is still pending.

School kids perform the Hajj ritual in a show
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Image 1 of 11: Hajj from home: In the Muslim world, there's our very own pilgrimage 'nativity play' where children re-enact Hajj at school performances, so if you can't make it to Mecca, there's always the stay-at-home and watch your kids option!

sheep for Eid
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Image 1 of 11: Bleeting expensive: during Hajj, the average spending for the spiritual journey totals $1,200 but pilgrims mustn’t forget to get in those all-important price-tagged $120 sheep. Without a bit of sacrificial roasting and sheep to the slaughter, the ‘Eid’ and festivities can’t officially be declared on.

When we think of the most coveted and for many, once-in-a-life-time journey, to the 'Hajj',  we often consider only the honor and the perks that go with the experience. Many of us only see the benefits, like the dates and holy water (zam-zam) that smiling pilgrims proudly carry home to share.  

The Eid that directly follows the Hajj time, known as Eid al Adha (or Feast of Sacrifice), brings to mind only the sacrificed sheep and the cheery celebrations. But there is another side to the pilgrimage and the sacrifice and a trip to Mecca can top the financial scales for many a potential pilgrim.

In the first place, a successful application through the bureaucratic lottery of securing a Hajj permit, directly involves dishing out sums of money and time (away from work or family) to make the dream come true.

Next up comes the transportation both getting there and getting around. And the cost of Hajj varies depending on which country you are setting off from. In Egypt, where the average annual salary is $6,600, a pilgrim pays anything from $2,740 to $4,590. The UAE is one of the dearer places to be a pilgrim, costing up to $41,000. 

On this most spiritual of journeys, the practical progress of the pilgrim is often overlooked so this Eid, we investigate the ways to short-cut, fast-track and get you to Mecca post-haste.

 

 

Share your thoughts on the Hajj and the sacrifice-- have you tried it? Are the spiritual gains worth the practical costs of the dream trip? Would you do it all again?

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