There was a time when a family could consider going on a once in a lifetime journey to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj pilgrimage without needing to re-mortgage their



This year they also face the anxiety of being placed in a 'lottery' to see whether their name lands on the proverbial roulette wheel so they gain access to the journey to Makkah. Some think that the odds are lower of winning something at the local bingo than the Hajj draw.

If the chosen ones are selected in the coming days they will be forking out anything between £6,500 and £12,000 per person to make the three week journey to the Islamic holy land. They will also be expected to drop everything within days of knowing they have been the ‘chosen ones’.

Prices have been rising long before the cost of living crisis, and the cancellation of Hajj for foreigners in the last two years has meant that demand is also high.

What has irked most potential Hajjis is that the normal route of travel has also gone by the wayside. Local agents could have been relied upon to support the journey to Makkah, although they also took their financial cut.

One of the most comforting parts of the journey was meeting your local group head and then meeting others ahead of the trip who would form a bond that lasted a lifetime.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj has now taken over matters, and that has meant that the livelihoods of the Hajj agents has been wiped out in an instant. Some people have paid deposits and fees to the agents and are awaiting the monies to be returned.

There is a new portal, not approved by ATOL, which will happily take your details without any GDPR safeguards, and place you in a draw. And, if successful you will pay the agreed amount within 48 hours or you will lose your place. Oh, and you have seven days to prepare.

It’s fair to say that the Hajj experience is now for the middle class and the rich.

Of course there are those who might say this new system helps to streamline the whole service. That has never been any doubt about the service one receives once on the Hajj or Umrah. This is about the simple pricing out of the common man and woman.

Where once the older generation talked about the struggle, the companionship and the yearning to be in the holy land. It’s now all about five star luxury, the closeness of the hotels and whether there’s a McDonalds nearby. Of course if you could visit a good Oud shop or jewellery outlet even better.

The Saudi’s by launching the new portal had the perfect opportunity to make a bold statement. The price of Hajj could have been capped to ensure people from all walks of life could fulfil their religious obligations. Sadly, they have done the opposite.

In this case, it is sad that that the nation which has spent billions to buy luxury western products, weapons to kill neighbouring Muslims and football clubs but does not see it fit to look at capping the price of the Hajj.

Yes, prices had been rising for Hajj in the past decade but here was a time for us to support those who cannot afford to go.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Most people should get an opportunity to go on the pilgrimage once in their lifetimes. It has never been easy, and nor was it created to be easy. But there are people now who will simply be completely priced out. And even if you have the money your luck may be out.

I have half expecting them to to create a show on Friday night hosted by someone like Ant and Dec to announce the winners of the lottery of Hajj.

It could be you. But it won’t be me as I am sitting out of this blatant disregard for Muslims around the world.