COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has praised Saudi Arabia for its Hajj arrangements as thousands of Muslims from the Buddhist-majority island nation arrive in the Kingdom to perform the annual pilgrimage.
Around 3,500 Sri Lankans will be performing Hajj this year — nearly four times more than last year. Most of them are younger than 50 and more than one-third are women.
At least 1,000 Sri Lankan pilgrims have already arrived in Saudi Arabia since Hajj flights from the country commenced on June 4. The final special pilgrimage flight is set to depart for Saudi Arabia on June 22. Hajj is expected to start on June 26.
Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Riyadh, Pakeer Mohideen Amza, told Arab News: “So far the operation in the airport has been very smooth and the transfers to the hotels have also been extremely well-coordinated.”
The envoy said he spoke with Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah just hours before Sri Lanka’s inaugural Hajj flight this year and conveyed his country’s gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “for the excellent arrangement that has been made for the Sri Lankan Hajjis” in the Kingdom.
“We see exemplary arrangements in Jeddah and Makkah, and I’m told the same arrangements have been made in Madinah as well for the welfare of the Hajj pilgrims,” Amza added.
“We pray to almighty Allah the best Hajj for every one of them who are coming.”
Last year, Sri Lanka was able to fulfil only about half of its pilgrim quota when the country was gripped by its worst financial downturn and defaulted on foreign debt repayments.
As the economy has shown signs of improvement, the country will this year meet its entire quota.
Sri Lanka’s inflation rate, that reached a record high of around 70 percent last September, had eased to around 25 percent in May.