Manchester Airport is gearing up to welcome hundreds of pilgrims who will be setting off on a journey of a lifetime.

With no other airport in the North of the UK offering direct flights to Jeddah, Manchester is the starting point for people heading off on the Hajj. 

This year, Hajj falls between Friday 14 June and Wednesday 19 June, with tour itineraries typically lasting between 10 and 21 days – meaning some pilgrims will start travelling out to Saudi Arabia this week.

Shurma Chowdhury and Faruk Ali are Manchester Airport’s Muslim chaplains and have shared some of their own experiences meeting travellers many of whom will be heading out to Saudi Arabia for the first time in their lives.

Shurma said: "Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a mandatory pilgrimage for all Muslims with the means to undertake it, at least once in their lifetimes. 

"For so many, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience now. Restrictions that were put in place during the Covid pandemic remain in place, spaces are very limited, and it can cost up to £10,000 per person, all-in-all, so for many people their life savings go into this. 

"Five members of my own family are travelling this year, so obviously I’m very excited for them. Jeddah Airport is only about an hour’s drive from Makkah, so we are very lucky to have a direct flight there from Manchester."

Faruk said: "I have led groups on Hajj pilgrimages in the past, in my capacity as an Imam, and for Muslims across the globe, it is a unifying, shared experience, but it is deeply personal at the same time.

"The process of getting yourself onto a tour can be a little stressful – you have to register your interest online via the official Saudi government platform, and from there it’s a bit of a lottery. 

"It’s very important for pilgrims to follow the Foreign Office’s travel advice and make sure they’re taking precautions, such as ensuring the tour operator they book through is ATOL protected. 

"The nature of the booking process means that all pilgrims travelling from Manchester will be travelling with Saudia, and the airline is well-versed on supporting people on their Hajj journeys.

Staff at the airport hope to make the journey as smooth as possible.

Shurma said: "Pilgrims have spent a lot of money to travel for Hajj, and it’s not as simple as rebooking for next year if things go wrong, so naturally people can get a bit anxious about that.

"Our job is to take as much of the stress out of it as we can. Passengers travelling through Terminal 2 in the next few weeks will see posters and leaflets guiding them on where toilets, changing facilities and check-in desks are, as well as explaining what they need to do throughout their airport journey. 

"For some, this will be the first and only time they fly, so you can’t take it for granted that they will know how to make their way through an airport! The Airport Chaplaincy works closely with operational teams on making these preparations."

It is mandatory for pilgrims to be wearing Ihram clothing (a white cotton garment) upon arrival in Saudi Arabia and many prefer to change at the airport.

Faruk said: "Ihram is about more than just what you are wearing, it’s also about getting into a relaxed and pure state of mind, so it’s important we provide the right facilities. 

"We have installed Ihram changing areas in T2 in two locations, one opposite Boots and one at Gate A8. We’d encourage pilgrims to use these designated spaces, rather than the toilets or the airport’s prayer rooms."

Faruk said it was vital people to be prepared, 'physically and mentally'. 

"Pilgrims from this country will not be used to the heat of Saudi Arabia in June, and performing the Hajj requires a lot of walking, so my main piece of advice to those travelling would be not to underestimate the stamina that is required, and to look after their health and physical fitness in the coming weeks."

On their journey back people were asked to contact the airport chaplaincy team if they needed any further advice.

Shurma  said: "Not as such, but the Airport Chaplaincy is always here to support people as best as we can, whether that’s spiritually or practically, so pilgrims are more than welcome to contact us if they want someone to talk to on their arrival back in Manchester. 

"The return home is like a moment of rebirth. This once-in-a-lifetime experience that people have been looking forward to has now come to an end, and they will come back with a new perspective on their lives, so naturally some of them might want to seek some guidance. 

"On a practical note, many pilgrims will bring holy water back with them so it’s important that they remember to pack these in their hold luggage if over 100ml."

Shurma added: "Saudia’s check-in desks will have informational leaflets and they’ll find our contact details on there. 

"They can call us on 0161 489 2838 or email us at, and book an appointment with us if they’d like a chat. Faruk or I will also be on the ground in Terminal Two on Mondays and Fridays and we’re always more than happy to chat or offer a helping hand where we can."