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23
Wed, Aug

First batch of Hajj pilgrims finally leaves Tamale for Mecca

The aircraft that took the pilgrims to Mecca last night

The first batch of more than 500 pilgrims finally left the Tamale Airport yesterday night for Mecca to undertake this year’s Hajj.

The initial scheduled flight for the pilgrims was aborted last Thursday due to technical challenges.

The pilgrims were to take off at 20:00 GMT but the flight did not show up at the airport.

Aviation officials explained that the flight that was to airlift the first batch came but could not land due to some technical challenges and had to return.

The pilgrims were left stranded at the Tamale Sports Stadium, the venue for the Hajj Village.

There were uncertainties about the trip early yesterday but at the time of going to press at 9 p.m. yesterday, pilgrims were seen boarding a Lion-branded plane to travel to Mecca for the Hajj.

Pilgrims boarding the plane at the Tamale Airport on Friday night 

Tamale batch

In all, 3,000 pilgrims are expected to be flown directly from the Tamale Airport to Mecca.

Out of the number, the government will bear the full cost of 452 pilgrims who could not travel to Mecca last year, although they had paid to undertake the pilgrimage, because their payments could not be accounted for.

Last Thursday, the Vice-President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, attended a farewell ceremony at the Tamale Sports Stadium to wish the pilgrims a safe journey.

In attendance were the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, and some ministers of state.

In the past, Muslim pilgrims from the three regions of the north had to travel to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Accra before they could fly to Mecca, a development that inconvenienced many of them.

Speaking at the farewell ceremony, Alhaji Dr Bawumia gave an assurance that the government would continue to facilitate and complement the efforts of the Hajj Board to ensure an incident-free pilgrimage.

Advice

Advising the pilgrims not to carry along any prohibited items that could tarnish the image of Ghana, the Vice-President appealed to them to comport themselves while in Saudi Arabia and focus on the religious obligations of the pilgrimage.

“A website had been created to provide detailed information on the departure times and dates for the pilgrims to help ease the usual congestion at the Hajj Village,” Dr Bawumia said.

The Northern Regional Minister, Mr Salifu Saeed, urged the pilgrims to pray for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Middle East while in Mecca and thanked the Ghana government for helping to organise a successful Hajj this year.