Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – “Hajj is a lesson of sacrifice and brotherhood.”
It was displayed on several posters on display at the departure terminal of the Hajj pilgrimage at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Soetta), Banten in order to release the first group leaving for Madinah on Sunday (July 7) by the governments of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
Not only the sacrifice of performing Hajj is a matter of the cost of the trip to the Holy Land of Makkah that they have to prepare for a long time, but also the waiting time that could reach dozens or even decades. Pilgrims should also take care of their health as they have to carry out all the stages of the worship since they are in their homeland, while performing the rituals, until they back home.
When arriving at the Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah or King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, the pilgrims should “again” sacrifice” as they have to queue for the immigration process which could take up to five hours before continuing the trip to hotels by buses.
However, the procedure is now no longer needed by some Indonesian pilgrims because the Saudi Arabian government implements a facility called “Makkah Route” which allows all immigration checks to be carried out at the embarkation.
“This service is very extraordinary because it saves time and energy. King Salman as the Guardian of the Haramain (the two holy mosques) has carried out this service very well,” Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla (JK) remarked during the release of the first pilgrim group as well as the launch of the Makkah Route facility at the Soetta Airport.
At the event, the Vice President also had time to see the immigration process by the Saudi personnel which took place much faster than before the “fast track” facility available.
“This program is implemented with the latest technology so it cuts the bureaucratic procedures,” he said, hoping the service could run smoothly.
Meanwhile on the same occasion the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Issam Abed Al-Thaqafi, expressed his joy over the implementation of the Makkah Route for Indonesian pilgrims.
“We are very happy with the presence of the vice president. The Makkah Route launch event was successful as it is desired,” Ambassador Issam said.
He added that the presence of Vice President JK was a pride and it showed the Indonesian government’s support for Makkah Route facility.
“Thank God, this event is smooth and we hope that all Indonesian pilgrimage departures can run smoothly,” the Ambassador added.
The Makkah Route service for the Indonesian pilgrims was greatly appreciated by the Indonesian Minister of Religion, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin as Chair of the Indonesian Hajj Organizing Committee.
“I very appreciate and am grateful to the government of Saudi Arabia for continuously improving the quality of Hajj services for Indonesian and worldwide worshipers,” the minister said.
Makkah Route was first launched in the 1439 (2018) Hajj pilgrimage season for Indonesians and Malaysians.
The facility includes an electronic visa arrangement that does not require the pilgrim’s passport to be taken to the Saudi Arabian Embassy, health checking, and baggage management upon arrival in the Holy Land.
Makkah Route allows pilgrims to go through the process of fingerprint and retina biometrics as well as immigration documents checks. Hence, they can go directly to the buses which take them to hotels in Makkah and Madinah.
“This facility is very efficient,” Minister Lukman said, explaining that one group usually takes four to five hours because each person should record ten fingerprints and retina, and undergo passport and health checks.
With Makkah Route, the entire process was carried out at the Hajj embarkation. Therefore, every pilgrims only needs to record one or two fingerprints for verification, while the Saudi immigration officer put a stamp on their passport.
“It takes no more than ten seconds,” the minister said.
This year Makkah Route is applied to pilgrims from the Jakarta embarkation.
“If there is no significant obstacle and can be replicated in other embarkations, we hope that Saudi Arabian immigration can provide more personnel because the entire immigration process in the country is carried out by Saudi Arabian authorities,” the minister explained.
Makkah Route in the 1440 Hijri is expected to serve more than 225,000 worshipers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia.
The number of hajj pilgrims in 1439 Hijr (2018) was recorded at 2.4 million. This year the number increases as the hajj quota is added, including Indonesia which has 231,000 pilgrims departing from 13 embarkations.
Indonesian pilgrims are dispatched in two phases, namely, on Dzul-Qa’dah 4th 1440 Hijri (July 7, 2019) to Dzul-Qa’dah 16th, 1440 Hijri (July 19, 2019) to Madinah, and Dzul-Qa’dah 17th, 1440 Hijri (July 20, 2019) to Dzul-Hijjah 3th, 1440 (August 5, 2019) to Jeddah.
This year’s Hajj trip will end on September 16, 2019 marked by the return of the second phase Hajj pilgrims in the country.
With the largest number in the world, Makkah Route is very helpful for Indonesian worshipers in carrying out the entire Hajj rituals of the 5th Pillar of Islam.
Reporting by Indonesia Window