About 3,500 Russian Moslems are about to go on a hajj to Mecca, a ritual pilgrimage that ends in prayers and sacrifices in the days of the major Islamic holiday, Kurban-bairam /February 11th-13th/.
According to the Spiritual Office of the Moslems of the European part of Russia /SOM/, the authorities of Saudi Arabia decreed that the Moslems arrive in a camp set up specially for this purpose on February 7th. The main rites begin on February 9th, with a ritual visit to Arafa Mountain.
The majority of Russian pilgrims, namely 2,000 people, come from Dagestan. About 700 of the Moslems setting out on a hajj are from Moscow and the Moscow region, and 200 more are from Tatarstan.
About 50% of the pilgrims are women, who usually make the pilgrimage with their husbands or relatives. 30% are young people. 80% of the pilgrims reach Arabia on buses leaving from Dagestan.
There is a rule that a country can send on a hajj only 0.1% of the Moslems inhabiting it. The quota for Russia with its 20 million Moslems is 20,000 people. The prospected number of pilgrims must have been 7,000 people, but the actual number turned out smaller because many cannot afford the price of the hajj, believes the SOM. A regular pilgrim, for instance, pays between 1,000 and 1,500 dollars to visit the sacred places of Islam, while so-called VIP pilgrims are expected to pay 4,000-5,000 dollars.
Nevertheless, hajj remains "one of the five pillars of the Islamic belief and every Moslem has to go on one at least once in their lifetime, paying their own money for it," stressed Damir Khazrat, the deputy Chairman of the SOM.