By Sainey M.K. Marenah, Shout-Africa.com Chief Correspondent in Banjul – The Gambia has the lowest hajj package in the region due to millions of dalasis spent by the Gambia government to subsidise its hajj package, said Bakary Nyassi, managing director of the Gambia International Airlines (GIA).
Mr Nyassi made this statement at a sensitization programme held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi attended by more than 200 interim pilgrims, to avail them the opportunity to discuss the hajj journey and the difficulties to be encountered by both the GIA and the pilgrims.
According to the GIA boss, issuing of visas will commence on 5 October and ends on 12 October this year, noting that once visas are issued, passport, air tickets and relevant documents will be distributed to pligrims on the aforementioned dates as well.
He used the occasion to call on all interim pilgrims to forward their passports and other necessary documents to the office of the GIA.
“Departure from Gambia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be scheduled from 15 to 20 of this month,” he said.
“It is not possible for GIA to give fixed dates and times for departure of pilgrims.”
Mr Nyassi indicated that they want to avoid sleep over at the airport and the trouble of going from home to the airport without making the flight or trip.
“The plane used by the GIA is a shared airplane with other countries,” he revealed, saying the delay in flights in some countries is due to the fact that the Saudi Airport usually gets congested.
Mr Nyassi however urged the pilgrims to monitor GRTS and the radio stations for update, adding that they would also collect telephone contacts on the hajj to inform them about their departure.
“We have also created 10 dedicated phone contacts which we will give to the pilgrims to also obtain information,” he said.
He urged the intended pilgrims to take advice and follow the medical team, the hajj commissioner and their scholars during their stay.
He further admonished the pilgrims to avoid going out alone, as it was the cause for many misgivings.
GIA would also make flags available, including the Gambian flag, for easy and quick identification, he said.
Furthermore, Mr Nyassi noted that the Saudi Ministry of Health has made a clarion call for pilgrims to avoid the buying of displayed foodstuffs on the streets.
“You have to be patient, no matter what your condition may be, as Allah is with the one who is patient,” he said, while pleading with the pilgrims to make payment earlier for the hajj and so doing would help them to organise them better.
“This will also help to mitigate the hajj cost and will reduce the hajj package by D3,000,” he said. “I want you to know that the Gambian leader, President Jammeh, spends millions of dalasis to enable people to perform hajj.”
He added that the Government of The Gambia spends millions of dalasis to subsidise for the hajj package, which makes The Gambia has the lowest hajj package in the region.
He said further that the services the GIA offers “are better than many countries in the region”.
He finally urged all interim pilgrims to start making payment before the start of Ramadan every year and full payment before a stipulated date.
In his remarks, Dr Omar Jah, hajj commissioner, told the pilgrims to concentrate on their main purpose of going to Saudi and to refrain from every evil deed.
“Hajj is not for tourism; it is a place where all mankind are equal,” he advised.
He urged the pilgrims to follow their guards and their instructions.
Dr Bah called on them to exercise patience, which also helps in making the workload easier for them.
However, an hajj official revealed that a rehearsal will be held today at the Buffer Zone.
Imam Abdoulie Fatty spoke also on the occasion.