Jeddah: Seems unbelievable. But it is a fact that if you are in Indonesia and wants to perform Haj, then you will have to wait for 37 long years before your turn comes.
According to Joko Asmoro, Chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Association for Haj and Umrah Travels, there are currently 3.2 million Indonesians on the Haj wait list.
"Being the largest Muslim country with some 220 million Muslims, Indonesia faces a huge demand from its citizens eager to perform Haj", he is quoted by Saudi Gazette as saying.
"The process", he said, "Requires people to register their names for Haj in advance to be included on the government Haj list."
“The average waiting time for Haj is 37 years,” said Asmoro adding, “This has increased the demand for Umrah as it is less expensive and requires less waiting."
According to him, there are 3,500 travel agencies in Indonesia. However, only 668 of them are authorized for Umrah. Around 200 are authorized by the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah to organize Haj. There are four airlines to carry Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
He said that there is a VVIP Haj package where pilgrims stay in five star hotels. But this category constitutes only 7% of Indonesian pilgrims. Only 17,000 pilgrims opt for this category as it costs US$8000.
Asmoro was speaking to journalists in an iftar gathering organized Sunday by the Indonesian consulate in Jeddah.
Accompanied by Juman Nazar, vice consul for economic affairs, officials briefed reporters about the cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia in various fields.
Asked about the delay Haj pilgrims face at the airport, Nazar said: “We are trying to arrange the schedules in advance and make all documents ready to avoid delay and abide by Saudi regulations. We have 3,000 officials who work in shifts to make the process efficient and smooth.”
Speaking about runaway pilgrims, he said it is not a new issue. “We are having strict procedures and we make sure that everyone is registered.”
Answering a Saudi Gazette question about Saudi tourists visiting Indonesia, he said that they have increased by 50% compared to last year.
“We receive 54,000 Saudi tourists who stay from one week to three weeks. We are expecting more visitors. Saudis do not follow travel agency schedules. They prefer to have their special arrangements,” Nazar said.
According to him, besides tickets, a one-week to 10-day stay in Indonesian may cost $1,000.