JEDDAH: AFSHAN AZIZ | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Wednesday 15 August 2012
It’s a dream of every Muslim to visit Makkah for Umrah or Haj. But religious pilgrimage in a foreign land is not an easy task for everyone due to financial reasons. Every year the number of pilgrims keeps growing multi-fold. Foreign pilgrims face real challenges in finding accommodation in the vicinity of the grand mosque in Makkah, especially the middle class because of severe shortage, as most hotels and other buildings have been demolished as part of the development projects by the Saudi government. This added to the accommodation problem, and hotel charges have risen precipitously due to high demand. It is difficult especially to find room in the months of Ramadan or Haj.
However, the pilgrims coming from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad find exclusive accommodation free of charge. Thanks to Makkah’s Rubat, built by Nizam State of Deccan Hyderabad, for providing free accommodation to Haj and Umrah pilgrims. About seven accommodation buildings known as Rubat were built for pilgrims’ use.
The original Rubat properties were bought during the time of the fifth Nizam, Nawab Afzalud Dawlah Bahadur, and have since been used to accommodate poor pilgrims arriving for Haj and Umrah free of charge. However later, the Saudi government acquired them and demolished them during the expansion of the Grand Mosque. The present Rubat buildings were built from the compensation awarded by the Saudi government.
“Its services are available around the clock,” its supervisor Hussain Mohammed Mudar Hussain Al-Shareef told Arab News. “The place is completely air-conditioned, has telephone facilities and the rooms are very comfortable,” he added.
The washrooms are fitted with water heaters. Cleaning services are available day and night. Each floor is equipped with drinking water and a refrigerator for storing medicines. A kitchen with a gas cooker is available for every four rooms. Also, each room is fitted with a compass, which shows the direction of the Kaaba. Wheel chairs and washing machines are also available.
For pressing clothes, iron boxes and ironing stands are provided. Weighing machines for luggage are provided, he said, adding that Zam Zam water and plastic wrappers are also given to the pilgrims. “If bookings are made 48 hours in advance, arrangements can be made for transporting the pilgrims from and to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. “Soon the pilgrims will be given the facility to visit the Holy Mosque once a week. However, information must be provided 48 hours in advance. Necessary permits could be obtained from Hyderabad itself,” Al-Shareef said.
With a view to bringing about transparency in the process of selection of pilgrims for accommodation in the Rubat of Nizam, a draw of lots is held every year, Al-Shareef said, adding that the online application and draw system has been introduced this year for the allotment of accommodation to the Haj and Umrah pilgrims. This process of is to reduce the hardships for pilgrims and simplify procedures. Pilgrims can now apply for accommodation online by entering their passport and visa details through the Rubat’s website.
Explaining the process of selection, he said, “There is capacity to accommodate 408 people in two buildings which are located in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque. Of this, 10 percent has been reserved for the kin of the Nizam.” The remaining 367 are selected through an electronic draw of lots