Hajj pilgrims promised better facilities in S. Arabia
A 17-member delegation that recently returned from Saudi Arabia was able to reduce accommodation rates from 5,550 riyals (69,584 afghanis) to about 3,350 riyals per individual.
Minister of Hajj and Islamic Affairs Mohammad Yousuf Niazai told a press conference in Kabul the team included representatives from Parliament, the Attorney General's Office, the Presidential Palace and other institutions.
Accommodation has been arranged for Afghans near Makkah, where they would have professional instructors. The minister said ticket rates had increased due to soaring fuel prices.
Last year, a ticket to Saudi Arabia cost $2,850. "This year's rate is $1,400. With other expenses included, the overall cost will be about $3100."
Of 105,000 registered intending pilgrims with the ministry, 30,000 would be allowed to go to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj. The minister characterised the number as inadequate.
"The Afghan government is trying to convince Saudi Arabia to accept another 10,000 Afghan pilgrims," Niazai said.
Last year, about 10,000 pilgrims were flown to Makkah by private airlines. But this year, the cabinet has decided all Afghans will be airlifted to Saudi Arabia by the government-owned Ariana Airlines.
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