Twice Fewer Bulgarian Muslims Attend Hajj Pilgrimage

Society | November 26, 2009, Thursday // 15:16|  views

A sheep vendor carries a sheep for a customer who bought the animal for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha celebrations. Photo by BGNES

Almost 400 Muslims from Bulgaria have attended the traditional annual Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Bulgaria’s Chief Mufti, Vedat Ahmed, announced on Thursday that the numbers of devotees attending the Hajj this year were less than in previous years, probably because of the economic crisis and fears of the dangers of exposure to swine flu.

Last year saw more than 700 Muslims from Bulgaria made the pilgrimage, with this year’s precise figure standing at 389. Of these, some 50 people are sponsored by the Saudi king, Abdullah, with all their expenses covered.

Unprecedented torrential rain greeted the pilgrims on Wednesday, the first day of the Hajj. Floods and landslides killed over 40 people in Saudi Arabia, but none of the pilgrims was affected.

On Thursday, in contrast, the sun burned fiercely as the devotees performed the prescribed ritual in the desert on nearby Mount Arafat, also known as the Hill of Forgiveness. Prayers are recited, and the Hadji give themselves over to personal meditation, in one of the most important and physically demanding parts of the four-day ritual.

This year’s attendance has been estimated at 2 million people, despite the widespread concern of exposure to swine flu. The Saudi authorities have put in place several precautionary measures, including field hospitals. Already four pilgrims have died since Wednesday, but, according to officials, none of the victims had taken elementary precautions.

On Friday afternoon, Bulgarian Muslims will celebrate the start of their main holiday, Kurban Bairam, when Muslims honor the memory of their dead relatives and ask for forgiveness.

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Tags: Hajj, Mecca, Muslim, pilgrimage, Mount Arafat, Kurban Bairam, Vedat Ahmed, Bulgaria

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