Though Saudi Arabia’s latest move allowing Qataris to use the Saudi-Qatar land border for Haj has been considered a positive development by many, a cross-section of Qataris feel there is still more to be done to guarantee the well-being and comfort of the pilgrims.
A number of Qataris and Qatari owners of Haj tour operators, who used to manage the trip to Makkah, expressed to local Arabic daily Arrayah their dissatisfaction about the move as it entails unacceptable conditions on the otherwise free right to practise such a religious rite.
In particular, they rejected the offer of Saudi Arabia to transport them on Saudi Airlines as a gift, stressing that such gift cannot be accepted and they can afford their expenses.
Qataris who spoke to the daily said they need to have the usual free access to Makkah by direct Qatar Airways flights, with an official Qatari Haj delegation to manage their affairs at Makkah as always.
Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, owner of a Haj tour operator, pointed out that he rejects that Qatari pilgrims should travel on the expenses of any country or party other than their own country. “Our country is wealthy and is in no need of aid or charity from any body and Qataris cannot be dealt with in this way.”
He further stressed that Qataris have all the financial means that enable to afford all the expenses of Haj. Besides, it is better for Saudi Arabia to give out such aid to the needy countries.
Al-Ibrahim pointed out that the usual arrangements for the pilgrims from Qatar are not in place this year in the absence of an official Qatari Haj delegation, who manage the affairs of Qataris at Makkah and guarantee their safety and welfare.
Ali al-Sulaiti, said that he completely rejects the Saudi solutions for Qatari pilgrims through crossing by land to Saudi Arabia and then Saudi aircraft transport them from Dammam and Al Ahsa to Makkah as a gift from the king.
“As Qatari citizens, we do not accept such solutions and ask for opening the airspace for direct flights from Doha to Makkah on Qatar Airways with guarantees of the safety and security of Qatari pilgrims,” he stressed.
Similarly, Mohamed Azran thinks that both the airspace and the land borders should be opened for direct trips to take pilgrims from Qatar to Makkah. He said that the measures taken by the Saudi authorities in this respect could be leading Qataris to skip Haj this year.
Jumma al-Kuwari, another Qatari owner of a Haj tour operator, pointed out that Qatar is a wealthy country and it is not acceptable to pay the costs of Qatari Haj by another country, as the people are in no need for any aid. Besides, it is customary for a medical team to accompany Qatari pilgrims and this would not be available this year. The overall mechanism of Haj for Qataris is not clear this year, he maintained.
A good number of Qataris stressed that they can afford to pay for their Haj expenses. “Getting easy access to Haj is our right as it is for all Muslims in the world. It cannot be a gift or concession, and it must not be shaped according to the change of politics or mood swings.”