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hajj

Yaum al Arafah – Friday 3rd October 2014, with Eid the following day insha Allah [source: Islamic Cultural Centre , London]

Hajj – the Pilgrimage – is one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar and it is a duty on every well-bodied Muslim man and woman to perform at least once in their lifetime, economic circumstances permitting

For a Hajj rituals guide, click here.

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers advice ahead of the Hajj (2014)

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/health-and-travel-advice-for-hajj-pilgrims

With thousands of British Muslims expected to attend this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, predicted to fall between 2 – 7 October, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging those travelling to Saudi Arabia to be fully prepared and follow up-to-date travel advice before embarking on their trip.

The Hajjis or pilgrims are advised to take out fully comprehensive Shariah compliant travel insurance and travel with a reputable tour operator. Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in people who have visited Saudi Arabia continue to be reported so getting the right vaccinations is critical as is travelling with the relevant vaccination card.

The Foreign Office, West Midlands Police and the Council of British Hajis are working together to support British Nationals undertaking the Hajj.

Sher Houston from the Know Before You Go team at the FCO said:

The annual Hajj pilgrimage is one of the largest gatherings of Muslims in the world. Despite the vast numbers, there is relatively little disruption and most pilgrims travel trouble free. However, as with all overseas trips, we strongly recommend that the necessary precautions are taken and the trip is carefully planned. We advise all British pilgrims to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice and the requirements set out by the Saudi Government.

Detective Sergeant Nadeem Hameed of the West Midlands Police said:

We are pleased to support and promote this campaign and recognise the importance of this religious pilgrimage and seek to promote safety awareness and safer travel among all pilgrims.

Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis said:

It is imperative that pilgrims seek good travel tips before they embark on a Journey of a Lifetime. As a council, we are actively supporting and promoting the FCO’s Know Before You Go Campaign and urge travellers to consult its travel advice pages before travel. We wish the pilgrims a “Hajj Al-Mabroor – An Accepted Hajj” and would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the FCO’s Hajj support team who will be present in Jeddah and Makkah should anyone require consular support while in Saudi Arabia.

The FCO will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending the British Hajj Team – a team made of regional FCO consular staff – to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj.

Travellers’ checklist

In addition to the requirements from the Saudi government, the FCO recommends that all pilgrims use the following travellers’ checklist:

Check the FCO travel advice

Make sure that you are up to date with the current situation in Saudi Arabia atwww.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.

Travel with a reputable tour operator

  • make sure that you book your tickets through an ATOL registered tour operator to avoid unnecessary difficulties – for more information please visit www.atol.org.uk
  • have contact details for your tour operator in the UK and their representatives in Makkah

Get comprehensive travel insurance

  • ensure it covers all aspects of your journey
  • check health requirements
  • which vaccines do I need?
  • when do I need to get them?
  • is there anything else I need to be aware of?
  • if you require medication check that you have adequate quantities

Check passport and visa are valid

  • do I need a visa, or to renew an existing one?
  • copy passport and travel documents
  • take a copy with you and store online using a secure storage site
  • leave copies with family and friends, along with your itinerary and contact details
  • research local laws and customs
  • country specific laws and customs can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Pack suitable footwear

You may have to walk long distances and make sure you have all the necessary clothing and items as advised by your Hajj tour operator.

Make a note of Hajj Delegations contact details

The Hajj Delegation and local consulate will be based at the Makkah Hilton between 4 – 18 Dhul-Hijjah:

  • Tel: 00966 125 34 0000 (Hilton switchboard and ask for British Hajj Team)
  • Mob: 00966 501 00 4268 (Available 24hrs a day)

Twitter Q &A session

On Monday 22 September the British Embassy, Riyadh will be hosting a live Hajj Q&A session between 11am and 12pm BST. This will provide British pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia in October the opportunity to ask any questions regarding their trip.

 

NaTHNaC advice (2013)

The National Travel Health Network and Centre, NaTHNaC has published the following health-related  information (last updated October 2013 so also check with the Saudi Embassy):

Hajj and Umrah vaccine requirements:

Meningitis

Meningitis outbreaks have occurred during previous Hajj pilgrimages, with cases spreading to other countries, including the United Kingdom. Proof of meningitis ACWY vaccine is therefore a requirement for entry and is also advised for personal protection of all pilgrims, including children under two years.

All Hajj and Umrah pilgrims aged two years and older must provide proof of vaccination against meningitis ACW135Y in order to get a Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage visa. You must receive the vaccine not more than three years and not less than ten days, before you arrive in KSA. It should be recorded in a vaccine book showing your full name (as it appears in your passport). Ask your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic about this vaccine as soon as you decide to travel.
Pilgrims arriving from the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and the Sudan will be given antibiotic tablets, called ciprofloxacin (500 mg) when they arrive in KSA. This is in addition to the requirement for proof of vaccination against meningococcal meningitis ACW135Y.

Polio

All travellers from countries with a risk of polio (Afghanistan, Chad, Nigeria and Pakistan) must provide proof of polio vaccination (given at least six weeks prior to departure). These travellers will also receive a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) when they arrive in KSA.

This requirement also applies to all travellers from recently endemic countries at high risk of re-importation of polio, such as India.

All visitors aged under 15 years travelling to KSA from countries reporting polio following importation or due to circulating vaccine-derived polio in the past 12 months (Chad, Kenya, Niger, Somalia and Yemen) should be vaccinated against polio with the OPV.

Proof of polio vaccination with either OPV or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is required 6 weeks prior to the application for entry visa.

For babies and children up to the age of 15 years, a record of polio vaccine is also required. Irrespective of previous immunisation history, all visitors under 15 years of age arriving in KSA will receive an additional dose of OPV when they arrive in KSA.

For adults, if your last dose of polio vaccine was over ten years ago, ask your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic for a booster dose with the combined tetanus, diphtheria and polio vaccine.

Yellow fever

All Hajj and Umrah pilgrims arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever must present a valid International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis showing that they have received yellow fever vaccine in accordance with International Health Regulations (2005).  Maps showing countries with a risk of yellow fever are available in a yellow fever information leaflet  from NaTHNaC. Yellow fever is not a risk in Britain.

Hajj and Umrah general vaccine advice:

Check NaTHNaC’s Country Information Page for Saudi Arabia for specific health and vaccine advice. You should also make sure you are up-to-date with all your routine immunisations including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) before you travel.

Flu

Flu (influenza) spreads in the same way as a cold (via coughs, sneezes and respiratory contact) and is easy to catch in a crowd, so influenza vaccine is recommended for all pilgrims by KSA Ministry of Health.

Certain travellers are at particular risk of complications, including older people (65 years and above), pregnant women, anyone with a pre-existing medical problem (like a heart or chest condition), diabetes, kidney or liver problems or anyone who does not have a spleen.

These travellers are usually given an influenza vaccine every year by their GP, as part of their routine UK vaccines. If you are not in one of these higher risk categories, you should ask about availability of influenza vaccine at a high street chemist, private GP service or travel clinic. (See NaTHNaC’s Influenza information for more advice).

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus can cause serious liver disease. It is found in blood and body fluids and can be spread by medical or dental treatment, or if your blood and body fluids come into direct contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. All pilgrims should consider hepatitis B vaccine.

One of the Hajj rites is male head shaving. Licensed barbers, with a new blade for each pilgrim, are present. However, unlicensed barbers may not follow this standard. Take a disposable razor and avoid sharing razors or shaving with previously used blade, as this could put you at risk of hepatitis B and other blood borne infections like HIV.

Rabies

There is a risk of rabies in KSA.  Avoid contact with all wild or domestic animals and get immediate medical treatment if you are bitten, licked or scratched by an animal, or if an animal spits in your face.

There is a vaccination course you can have prior to travel, and while this will not eliminate the need for post-exposure medical evaluation and more vaccine doses, it does simplify rabies treatment and removes the need for a blood product called rabies immunoglobulin, which is in short supply worldwide.

 

Other health issues:

Accidents and injuries

Minor injuries are common, particularly to the feet. You are also at risk of more serious injuries, particularly a result of stampedes or as pilgrims undertake the stoning rite or other mass activities. Avoid peak times whenever possible. Also, if you are elderly or infirm, you can appoint a proxy to perform the stoning rite on your behalf.

 

Cold

During the winter, it can get very cold at night, even when it’s hot during the day. Take warm clothes and appropriate bedding, such as blankets and sleeping bags.

 

Drugs and medical history

If you take regular medicines, make sure you have a good supply, carry copies of prescriptions and a doctor’s letter detailing your medical history. Your GP’s details may be required if you need emergency medical care.

 

Food and water hygiene

Diarrhoea and stomach upsets are spread by contaminated food or water. Dehydration is a risk, particularly in hot weather. Babies, young children, older pilgrims and anyone with long term health problems are more vulnerable to dehydration.

Follow good personal, food and water hygiene advice, and carry a supply of re-hydration powders (such as Dioralyte® or Electrolade®) for mixing with clean drinking water to replace lost minerals and salts. If suitable for you, anti-diarrhoea medicines, like loperamide (available from high street chemists), which temporarily stops diarrhoea will be useful. If you have a medical condition that might be made worse by diarrhoea, ask your GP or hospital specialist if it is appropriate for you to carry a supply of self-treatment antibiotics.

Hajj and Umrah pilgrims are not allowed to bring fresh food into KSA. Only properly canned or sealed food or food stored in containers with easy access for inspection is allowed in small quantities, sufficient for one person for the duration of their trip.

Insect spread illnesses

Insect-borne diseases, including dengue fever, are present in KSA, so you should follow insect bite avoidance advice to reduce your risk. Malaria is not found in Medina or Makkah, butis a risk in south-western, rural parts of KSA. If you are planning to travel before or after Hajj or Umrah to malaria risk areas in KSA or other regions, such as Asia, Africa and Latin America, get advice about malaria prevention from your doctor or nurse.

Insurance

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance, remember to declare all your medical conditions to your insurance company and carry a copy of your policy.

Medical kits

All pilgrims should take a basic medical kit that includes dressings, plasters and basic pain relief.

Respiratory illness

Many pilgrims suffer from respiratory infections due to viruses (called Hajj cough). Symptoms range from a mild inconvenience to severe illness – which can interfere with performing the rites.  Following simple precautions, known as cough hygiene helps reduce your risk of respiratory infections (See KSA Ministry of Health advice below).

Severe respiratory illness is a risk worldwide and can spread rapidly in crowds. Again, following cough hygiene helps reduce your risk. If you return with mild respiratory symptoms, you have probably just caught a common illness, like a cold. However, if your symptoms get worse or you experience any breathing problems, get urgent advice from am urgent care centre, your GP or NHS Direct – remember to mention the countries you’ve visited.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus

Since September 2012, a small number of people have caught a respiratory illness, caused by a new virus in some Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, KSA, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. This virus, now called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), has in some cases, caused severe illness and death.

The risk of contracting MERS-CoV during travel is very low.

However, KSA’s Ministry of Health recommends that the following groups postpone their performance of the Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety:

 

  • Elderly people – above 65 years of age
  • Anyone with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart, kidney, respiratory problems, diabetes, or immune deficiency and terminal illnesses
  • Pregnant women
  • Children under 12 years old

 

KSA’s Ministry of Health also advises all pilgrims comply with the following measures:

 

  • Wash hands with soap and water or disinfectant, especially after coughing and sneezing.
  • Use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose it in the waste basket.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid direct contact with people with symptoms such as cough, sneeze, expectoration, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
  • Wear masks, especially when in crowded places.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene.

 

Sun and heat

Daytime temperatures in KSA, even during the winter, can get very high. Risks include sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. If possible, try to travel before Hajj starts to allow time to get adapt to high temperatures.

Drink plenty of clean water (preferably bottled or boiled and cooled) to avoid dehydration. Apply high protection sunscreen (at least SPF 15) regularly. Male pilgrims are not allowed to cover their heads, but can use umbrellas.

Sand can reach very high temperatures – wear comfortable, good quality shoes and carry a shoe bag for the times you need to be barefoot.

Physical fitness

It is important to make sure you are physically fit as the Hajj is demanding and includes walking long distances in hot conditions.

Women

If you want to avoid your period during Hajj, speak to your GP or family planning clinic about the suitability of hormone medication to delay menstruation. The KSA government advises against undertaking pilgrimages if you are pregnant. If you are determined to travel whilst pregnant, discuss your plans with your midwife and see you GP or practice nurse for advice and vaccines.

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