Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Every Muslim individual worldwide must have unique stories behind their pilgrimage, including challenges they face since departing from their respective countries, setting their feet on the Holy Land, rushing to hotels, starting the pilgrimage procession, and returning to their respective homelands.

With the number of pilgrims continuing to grow each year, which now reaches three million people during the 1439 Hijriyah (2018) season, the intensity of the challenges is likely to increase.

For pilgrims, the struggle of performing the pilgrimage begins right from the time they arrive at Saudi airports where they have to undergo the long and winding process of checking passports, visas, and fingerprints.

Following this tiring process, the pilgrims are made to proceed to the baggage claim areas, where they have to wait for a long time as airport authorities have to serve millions of people from various countries.

As hajj pilgrimage is Muslims? obligatory worship, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is determined to make this challenging religious journey comfortable and safe for all pilgrims, based on an idea called "Makkah Road" or "The Road to Mecca."

According to the Saudi Minister of Media, Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad, "Makkah Road" is an idea and a method to make the hajj pilgrims more comfortable and secure in their journey of worship, since their departures from their respective homelands.

"This special service is applied for the first time for Indonesian and Malaysian pilgrims, and we hope that Makkah Road can be applied globally to all Muslims around the world," the minister stated, when meeting media delegates from six countries who were invited to closely observe the hajj pilgrimage preparations made by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently.

"Makkah Road"

On Monday (July 30) Indonesian hajj pilgrims who were enjoying the "Makkah Road" facility arrived at King Abdulazis International Airport, Jeddah.

"This is the first batch of pilgrims who arrive with the `fast track` or `al-masar as-sari` service. It is an important part of the big project" Makkah Road," which is the latest innovation of Saudi Arabia in providing services for the comfort of Indonesian pilgrims, whose number is the highest in the world, " Ambassador of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Agus Maftuh Abegebriel, remarked.

Unlike other passengers who have to wait at immigration desks for checking passports, visas, and fingerprinting, Indonesian pilgrims flying with the "Makkah Road" facility have been through all the procedures right at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Indonesia.

Upon arrival in Jeddah, they do not have to wait for a long time to claim their luggage because the officers would take care of them and shift them straight to their respective lodgings.

With the fast track service, it takes only 15-20 minutes for pilgrims to arrive at hotels since their landing in Jeddah, getting off the planes, and taking buses that shift them to their inns. Previously, the process could take about 2.5 hours.

Abegebriel explained that the Indonesian Government deeply appreciated King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for this extraordinary innovation.

Meanwhile, Defense Attach? Brigadier General Drajad Bima Yoga remarked that the first batch of Indonesian pilgrims arriving at King Abdulazis Airport Jeddah have experienced the new system which constitutes cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia in the field of immigration.

Through these services, pilgrims get immigration services from the Government of Saudi Arabia since departing from Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Jakarta.

This system is a form of an effort to enhance the Saudi-Indonesia cooperation in improving the effective and efficient services of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Indonesian pilgrims, Brigjen Drajad noted.

In the meantime, Awwad noted that this idea has been successfully implemented in Malaysia and Indonesia thanks to the efforts and cooperation of related institutions of both countries.

He pointed out that "Road to Makkah" is an idea which is implemented by the Saudi Government solely for the comfort of pilgrims during their religious trips.

"The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is a unique journey because three million people gather in the same place in a narrow area and perform the same activities simultaneously at the right time set without any delay, "Awwad explained, adding that serving the Hajj pilgrimage for Muslims coming from different parts of the world is a challenge.

"Alhamdulillah, Allah gives us the convenience to do it," he stated.

The minister added that pilgrims of different ages come from different countries and speak different languages.

"This is our duty to serve the pilgrims. Last year, the oldest pilgrim was a 114-year-old woman from Indonesia. This is amazing," he remarked.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the Royal Government is doing all the best for all pilgrims, because serving them is actually a work for Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. "It is our responsibility and honor, and we do not want to achieve any political honor through this. There is no political reason behind anything we do," he elaborated.

He stressed that the propaganda on the politicization of Hajj should be countered. "No one wants to politicize hajj. Hajj pilgrims just want to perform Hajj. There is no political reason behind the Hajj since 1,400 years ago," he reiterated.

"We must protect the process of pilgrimage from political elements of any party," he added.

Editing by Yosep Haryadi

Reporter: Libertina W. Ambari
Editor: Bambang Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2018