Business Opportunity Saudi Arabia: Pilgrim Airways

pilgrim

The fifth pillar of Islam for a Muslim is the opportunity to travel to Makkah and perform Hajj. Not all Muslims may necessary be able to perform this ritual either due to expenses, quotas (only certain percentages of Muslims are allowed each year from each country to perform hajj to maintain security and crowd control), illness or other factors. Hajj takes place each year from the 7th to 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

For those who are unable to perform Hajj and/or wish to make further pilgrimages to performing-umrahMakkah, one can perform umrah. Umrah has been referred to as a “mini-pilgrimage” and can be performed at any time of the year.

The pilgrim (mu’tamir), sometimes referred to as a ‘Haji’, performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his wife Hagar (Hajarah), and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. These acts of faith are:

  • Perform a tawaf, which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. Men are encouraged to do this three times at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace.[1]
  • Perform a sa’i, which means rapidly walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of Hagar’s frantic search for water, before the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by Allah.
  • Perform a halq or taqsir, meaning a cutting of the hair. A taqsir is a partial shortening of the hair, whereas a halq is a complete shave of the head, except for women, as they cut a little amount of hair instead.

These rituals complete the Umrah, and the pilgrim can choose to go out of ihram. Although not a part of the ritual, most pilgrims drink water from the Well of Zamzam. Various sects of Islam fiqah perform these rituals with slightly different methods.

The Umrah can be completed in one hour during the off-peak pilgrimage season. The peak times of pilgrimage are the days before, during and after the Hajj and during the last ten days of Ramadan.

umrah4Now Saudi Airlines naturally has special flights during Hajj which are referred to as “Hajj flights.” These flights normally originate in other countries and go as direct as possible to Jeddah, the nearest international airport to Makkah with a Hajj terminal. But what about Umrah? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were special flights known to cater for pilgrims who were going to perform umrah? One would not have to worry about whether the food being served was halal or not. One would likely not have to watch or be distracted by some of the unusual actions of passengers flying in and out of Saudi Airlines on regular flights. Videos and documentaries about performing umrah could be shown as the in-flight entertainment. In addition to the monthly magazine all airlines publish, Qurans could be provided to passengers too. I’m sure that in addition to umrah pilgrims other Muslims would probably welcome such flights into Jeddah.

And of course, such a new airlines would have to be called Pilgrim Airways.

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16 Responses

  1. Interesting! I have not performed Hajj but of course wish to do so in the future. My cousin has performed it twice & most of my aunts have performed both Hajj & umrah at least once. They all loved it. I hope I can do it one day too. Inshaallah…. Note that I am not even a practicing Muslim which makes this concept very interesting. ;-)

  2. Ok Im sitting here thinking about my Umrah trip and cant remember if I had a bit of my hair cut off or not…hmmmm? Now wondering about the validity of my umrah…damn!!!

  3. Pilgrim Airlines may have to coordinate its flights to peak umrah times which may be peak holiday times in other countries so the Pilgrims would be able to get time away from work–eg. Christmas, New Year, Easter, August (France, Italy), Pentecote (France), March Break, Reading Week (February) etc.

    I have family members who have performed the Haj and the Umrah and find both experiences profound and spiritually fulfilling.

  4. @coolred – I’ve no doubt you would have noticed many others getting
    clipped so would be very surprised if you forgot! (smile)

  5. Performing Umrah was spectacular. I’ve been several times. After the first time, a person can perform it for those that died and did not get a chance to do it. I was told that making Umrah for the deceased is like sending your relative or friend a special gift. (The best gift you can give to someone who can no longer pray for themselves is to pray for them and ask God’s forgiveness.) And, of course you also get the ‘brownie points’ of having performed it as well.

    There are birds that fly around and around the Kabba while you are making Tawwaf, and everyone is praying at the same time… You feel like you are the closest to God and heaven that you can get to on Earth. It’s really amazing.. It’s best to go when it’s cool….early mornings or late evenings when it’s not so hot and not as crowded. I almost fainted once.

    You have to take off your shoes, so if you have trouble walking on hard surfaces, you can put a Dr. Scholl pad inside each sock and wear them around. What a difference!!! It’s good to have a small bag with you to carry water, your phone, and your slippers. (Slippers go missing a lot there.) One of you should take a small scissors.

    We cut each other’s hair when we finished and we kept the hair till we got home. Someone mentioned that there were people that could take your hair and do strange things with it…black magic or something…. I’m not too sure about the validity of that statement, but took my hair home just in case. Anyone heard anything like this before?

  6. Hair clippings are standard black magic ingredients in a number of cultures–kind of like getting your DNA involved. If I remember my Mark Twain correctly it is a part of the “Negro’s” black magic too. Same with nail clippings. Just add eye of newt, and presto changeo (or abracadabra) you have a hex!! Wearing a garlic necklace can ward off the evil eye–and many other hexes I’m sure, although a hamsa is prettier!
    For sure in other Muslim countries I am aware of hair clippings are part of black magic.

  7. My husband plans to do Umrah this winter when we visit. I will visit with my sisters-in-law because I’m not Muslim. I wish I could see Mecca but I’m not going to convert.

  8. Wendy, I had no trouble converting. If you say,
    “I believe in One God and Prophet Mohammed is His final Messenger,” then, (as someone said here), presto-change-o, you’re muslim! You get your paper stamped and come on over!

    We’ll take you to Mecca. : :P :

  9. “Abracadabra” is probably a better choice here and may result in a magic carpet ride too. LOL :P :P

  10. That’s what my hubby said but I’d feel like a hypocrite doing that. :(

  11. well among many other things.. pilgrim airways will have to anticipate demand for umrah, which is not as easy as it is for Hajj. because umrah can be performed anytime, by any number of people etc

  12. I’m not too sure if such venture will be profitable because it will have to serve many places around the world.

    For a start, it could concentrate on regional flying where there’s a greater catchment of Muslims wanting to perform the Umrah before expanding. Since there’s Muslims all over the world in many cities, it has to decide which cities it wants to serve. Jeddah is the most obvious place to start since it is the closest to Makkah. Some flights could be routed through Madinah as well.

    What about service? Will it have the standard 3/4 class service from First, Business, Premium Economy, Economy classes or a special “Pilgrim Class” where religious materials are provided by cabin crew wearing religiously appropriate clothings or served by single sex crews. Will there be gender segregation in that particular flight?

    Duty free will be given a religious slant where pilgrims can purchase dates or special mementos from Makkah or Madinah.

    How about code sharing, interlining and frequent flyer programmes for those who requires connections or perform Umrah on a more frequent basis?

    Should such venture ever happen, certainly it has to compete either on price or provide even better service than the airlines serving Saudi Arabia.

  13. @Firdaus – very interesting comments! I like the idea of a “Pilgrim”
    class and even having certain sections of an airline segregated for
    those who prefer to be segregated. It’s fun “dreaming” and seeing
    what options and suggestions come forward.

  14. <>

    To be a Muslim, you have to say that with sincerity, with a basic knowledge of what it entails, and with the intention to try to live according to the words of Allah and the example of his final Messenger. Wendy, I’m glad that you wouldn’t do that under false pretenses.

  15. There are airlines flying into Jeddah, from many cities around the world, where the food is always halal and alcohol is not served – Saudia and Kuwait Airways that I’m sure of, and I assume there are others.

  16. Thanks Munaqabah. Umrah is out now anyway. It is not done during the time we are able to be in Saudi so I guess one year my husband will do the Haj and I will sit visit with my in-laws while he’s gone. Maybe we can plan that for 2011 or something.

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