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19.11.2008 Religion

All Is Set For Successful Haj

By Francis Asamoah Tuffour & Lizzy-Ann Nyama -

ALL  is set for Muslim pilgrims to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj in Mecca.

A total of 2,300 pilgrims, including 728 who could not make the Hajj last year, have been booked for the trip.

At a news conference in Accra yesterday to update the press on flight arrangements, a joint technical committee tasked for the Hajj said it was satisfied with arrangements made and was optimistic that this year's pilgrimage would be a success.

Speaking  on behalf of the committee, Deputy Managing Director of Ghana Airports Company Limited,  Yaw Kwakwa, said EgyptAir had been contracted to provide charter flight services for the pilgrims.

Under the agreement, the  aircraft would make seven trips in five days from Wednesday, November 19 to Sunday November 23, he said, adding that two trips would be made on Wednesday, one each on Thursday and Friday, two on Saturday and the last one on Sunday.

He said to check congestion at  the Hajj Village, near Aviance cargo section, of the Kotoka International Airport  (KIA), prospective pilgrims would converge at Kaukudi Park near Gold House from where  they would be screened before being conveyed  to the Hajj village close to the airport to board the flight.

“Pilgrims will converge at the Kaukudi park 10 hours prior to boarding the flight.  Thereafter, they will be transported to the Hajj village, where check-in and screening of hand luggage”.

Family members and friends of pilgrims,  he said, would only have the chance to interact with the prospective travelers at the Kaukudi park after which, they would not be allowed within the perimeter of the Hajj village.

The flight, according to Mr Kwakwa would arrive at KIA at about 4 a.m. and take off at 7 a.m., adding that two of the aircraft would stand by in Egypt to step in, in the event of any eventuality.

He said to ensure the air worthiness of the aircraft, a team of experts from Ghana was in Egypt recently to thoroughly examine the aircraft which they concluded were in good condition.

He reminded the prospective pilgrims of prohibited items like cola nuts, narcotic drugs, medicated soap containing mercuric iodine, contaminated goods, raw coffee and defamatory or obscene/pornographic material and stated that there would be stringent security measures at  both Kaukudi park and the Hajj village to ensure that no pilgrim carried any of them along.

Other  prohibited items include dangerous weapons such as flick and paper knives, goods bearing fraudulent trademarks or infringing on any copyright law and pest infected plants and seeds.

The Country Manager of Egypt Air, Magdy Zaki, said arrangements had been concluded to provide the pilgrims with food before departure and while on board.

He stated that adequate fuel arrangements had also been made to avoid flight delays either at the KIA or in Saudi Arabia.

Alhaji Osman Kadri English, Interim Hajj Committee member, in charge of operations was grateful for the agreements and arrangements made by the technical committee and was optimistic that the trip would be smooth.